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With Arms Wide Open

Two shots in our arms and time to let that immunity sink in have given way to brighter days. And not too long ago, there was a celebration of renewed life that included hugs after months without.

As our grandchildren exited their front door to greet us, there was nothing more wonderful than seeing those uncovered smiles and sharing the warm hugs that followed. Ecstatic is the best way to describe the moment for all of us.

There is nothing that can replace the human touch. Clinical studies of young and old have shown that those who do not have contact with others – such as a hug, a caress or holding hands – do not fare as well as those who have regular physical interaction with others.

Newborns are immediately placed on their mothers’ naked chests and fathers are encouraged to hold their infants in the same manner. This bonding has proven to benefit both parents and children from the very start. Holding and rocking a baby also offers health benefits of lowering blood pressure, relieving stress and bringing about an overall feeling of contentment.

Infants born addicted via their mothers’ drug habits find some comfort in being held and gently rocked in the hospital nursery. Volunteers often do this for abandoned babies.

The elderly have the same needs for human contact. Have you noticed the elderly couples that hold hands while out walking also have a generally healthier outlook on life? It’s true.

For a year or more most all of us have missed out on the things that we could count on, including in-person contact with those with love.

The fear and unknown from the virus that forced us behind closed doors is beginning to show signs of retreating. It is not happening by osmosis. It’s happening because you and I have listened to common-sense advice to maintain social distancing, to wear masks and to get vaccinated.

There have been plenty of ill effects from the pandemic. As I held the hands of our young grandchildren, they pointed out what all that sanitizing has done to their little hands. Now they need lotion to repair the damage.

Not all effects are visible. There is sadness over those we’ve lost. There is a sense of loss over canceled weddings, birthday parties and other events. And there are still the nagging questions of the unknowns of this virus.

Despite it all, think spring. Think sunshine and the warmth of its rays on our faces. Soak in the clean air after a rain. Walk in puddles and pick the first daffodils of the season. Look around the yard and see the changes occurring in the trees and woodlands. See the turkeys strutting their stuff. Hear the songbirds and bees making their presence known.

While I believe masks will be part of our lives for some time to come, there is opportunity to trade frowns for smiles. When the time is right, stretch out your arms and breathe in what we used to take for granted — life.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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