Old fashioned medicine for a return to civility

“A hug a day keeps the demons at bay.”

—German Proverb

Hugs from parents and grandparents reaffirmed the love they gave me in so many other ways. Other times, deserved punishment made me appreciate hugs even more.

Hugs have also been proven to be a miracle cure for pain, both physical and emotional. They might even be powerful enough to sure some of the uncivil ills in today’s society.

Physiologically, hugs release hormones that increase bonding, social behavior, and closeness between humans who trust one another. Other health benefits include lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of harmful stress hormones.

Psychologically, hugs may very well be the cure for some of the social ills menacing the country today. Touch is the first sense a newborn acquires before maturing to civilized adulthood through interaction with people. Although I jokingly (sometimes) refer to those I perceive to be lacking civility as “raised by wolves,” the truth is that much of what even a wolf learns about socializing comes through interaction with the pack.   

My grandmother wasn’t joking anytime she suspected me of bending the truth to avoid punishment when she said things like, “Look me in the eyes and tell me again that you don’t know how that happened.” Granny swore that when looking someone in the eyes, she could see straight into their soul. Many years of social interaction ranging from business deals to matters of the heart has confirmed that for me.

Also confirmed for me is that handshakes, hugs, facial expressions, and face-to-face talks convey understanding and love better than all the words ever exchanged. Desmond Tutu stated it well in his book The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, “We are wired to be caring … We shrivel when we are not able to interact.”

Think about no interaction across the fence with neighbors. No chats with friends we meet in public places. Never gaining new friends by initiating conversation with strangers at gatherings. And how would we function without social interaction to start the week with visiting Sunday after church services?

Sales 101 taught me years ago that social interaction is also crucial in everyday business. “People do business with people—not with companies,” is more than an inspirational saying. Vance Payne at Payne & Payne hardware in Center, Texas, was known to greet customers by name at the door. Besides inquiring as to what you needed, he might also ask what you were going to do with it. While that may sound a tad nosy in today’s world, it didn’t take long to understand Vance was simply making sure that you left his store with exactly what you needed.

Our civilization that is “wired to be caring” has been “shriveling” from lack of contact via technological social distancing for years. That shriveling of civility from lack of social interaction “went viral” with the COVID-19 misinformation spread by the mixed-up manipulation of major news networks, politicians, and healthcare talking heads.

In a piece published in Imprimus adapted from a lecture presented by Heather McDonald at Hillsdale College titled, “The Coronavirus and Public Policy,” the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal said, “Americans have lived through what is arguably the most consequential period of government malfeasance in U.S. history. Public official’s overreaction to the novel coronavirus put American cities into a coma; those same officials’ passivity in the face of widespread rioting threatens to deliver the coup de grace. Together, these back-to-back government failures will transform the American polity and cripple urban life for decades.” (Reprinted by permission from Imprimus, a publication of Hillsdale College.)

Those remarks were void of any political or social agenda tone. And they were delivered without preference or apology to any political party or level of government, attributing “unprecedented malfeasance” to pretty much every nook and cranny of public offices filled with people whose duty is supposed to be upholding the law and protecting the citizenry.

The Stanford Law School graduate concluded her remarks with, “Pulling the country back from the abyss will require a recalling of our civilizational inheritance.”

Pressed to look my grandmother in the eyes and swear to tell the truth, I believe that recovering America’s civilizational inheritance is going to require more handshakes and hugs than social distancing and political infighting. It might also require some of what I got from Granny for acting without civility—a dose of swift and sure punishment.

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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