I remember being 6 years old and feeling acutely aware of the world’s vastness every time I stepped outside. Outside seemed to be full of strangers, all 3 feet taller than me. The shadows felt imposing and I felt certain that one wrong turn would lead me to danger.
I guess I might have been paranoid, but I was also 3 feet tall and could have been carried in an average size duffel bag — with wiggle room.
One thing always made me feel brave enough to stand in line at the grocery store, walk around the Los Angeles County Fair and step foot in an airport — holding my mom’s hand.
It wasn’t enough to simply stand near 5 feet 7 inches of mother-ensured-safety. I had to hold her hand to know the world wouldn’t consume me.
As I’ve gotten older the amount of time I’ve spent holding my mom’s hand has dropped exponentially. The world typically doesn’t feel as large, and I can buy my own groceries and go through airport security by myself. Now that I’m a whole 5 feet 5 inches (rounded), I usually don’t need the same level of assurance.
Yet, shadows remain. They’re just more abstract than the dark area of trees in the park near my childhood home. Now it’s more the concept of life that feels vast and scarier than I can handle alone. I don’t need the same assurance of physical safety, but my goodness, I still need a hand to hold.
It’s common for men in India, Mozambique and other parts of the world to hold hands with their best friends. I think they’re onto something because not only is that the sweetest thing ever, it’s been proven that holding hands is actually good for your health.
According to social scientists at the University of Indiana, holding hands lowers blood pressure, heart rate and stress. So when you’re scared, have a bad day or simply need more assurance, holding a loved one’s hand helps.
The last thing my grandpa was able to do for my grandma was to hold her hand. I think there’s beautiful symbolism in holding hands. What better way to show someone you are physically, emotionally and literally available for another person than taking their hand?
The thing I’m trying to remember better is that one day my friends’ hands won’t be there to hold. One day it won’t be an option to walk around the grocery store or airport with my mom. It’s cliche to even say, but our time with each other is limited. While the people you love are here, why not hold their hands?
Addendum: If you’re not a touchy person, phone calls work. Texts work. Showing up to their choir concert works. Holding hands is great, but anything that helps another person feel like the world is a little more cozy is a wonderful endeavor indeed.