Hand in Hand
I remember Stanley Clark from my early days living in Florida. My memories of Stanley are not in a video format of our activities but my memories are like snapshots in a photo album of moments that I had with him. Stanley was younger than me and he was either Japanese or Korean, I know the difference now but at that age the issue of being from somewhere else had no effect on how we felt about being friends and playmates. Stanley and another friend Rusty were both at that time in my life my best friends. Often in the hot Florida afternoon after school it was not uncommon to see Rusty, Stanley, and myself together. When two of us were walking down the street together we either had our arm around each other’s shoulders or holding hands as pals. There was never a concern in our minds of what others thought about us being together we simply were close and enjoyed the connection of our arms on each other’s shoulder or holding hands to affirm the kinship we had for each other.
Over time, we in the U.S. grow out of behavior of touch to affirm our kinship, the new cultural norm would consider this odd, and even mock anyone who might actually practice this behavior. I might also go as far as considering that many first world western nations probably have now adopted this new norm in their societies. I personally had forgotten the value of simply placing a hand into someone else’s to simply connect and say I just wanted to confirm our kinship and level of friendship we have with each other. To place your hand into another person and clasp theirs or even interlock fingers creates a connection of an interpersonal depth that affirms what our words often attempt to say but seem to simply be incomplete.
Prior to my first trip to Pakistan Mujtaba shared with me that people in Pakistan in their close friendships of no personal space. Mujtaba said “It is not uncommon to see people holding hands or sitting with their arms around each others shoulders.” When I arrived in Pakistan I began to notice this to be true and very common. I also discovered that when riding in a vehicle true “Pakistani style” the more people in the car the more intimidate the journey. Most people would say you mean cramped, no I meant intimate. Sure legs and arms fall asleep and one has to shift around in order to remain comfortable, yet the connectedness between the passengers adds to the dynamics of the trip. I personally found this to be true during the road trip I took with Murtaza and crew last time I was here in Pakistan.
Coming to Pakistan metaphorically was about me placing myself in the hands of others to assist me in every element of existing in Pakistan. I remember the first moment in Pakistan that I placed my hand in another’s hand, Rukhsana, grabbed my hand and held it with both of hers and we shared a special connection and understanding of how wonderful it was to be together, talking and sharing. The second person that I experienced that with was Ashfaq. The moment was when I was about to venture into the experience of crossing a busy Lahore street. Ashfaq immediately took my hand and ran with me to the center divider, and then when it was clear from the divider to the other side of the street. I was stunned at first at him grabbing my hand yet as we stepped into the street his grip provided me the confidence that transcended the thought of this is crazy crossing this busy street in Lahore, into I know we can successfully and safely cross the chaos of traffic conditions to the other side of the street.
Humans as a creature are blessed as species because we do have hands with opposing thumbs. Hands are one of the most amazing and complex aspect of being human. We as infants upon the discovery that we have a hand marvel that this appendage belongs to me and I can use it for various things. Our hands are very curious and can in their own connection become our eyes through the nerves. We train the nerves in our fingers over a life time to feel and communicate information that is necessary for what the eyes cannot see. Touch alone has its own database of information in our brain, along with coordination, and all the other functions that hands acquire over time. I would almost guess that this data base is possible the largest database we have in our mind, yet we do not realize how vast the information is in this database.
As we become adults we become individuals in the journey of life striving and surviving as independent beings. Eventually we stick our hand in our own pockets, walk with our arms behind our backs with one hand holding the other arm, or even possibly a clinched fist ready in a moment’s notice to secure our personal space from an unknown invader. It becomes hard to relearn to reach out to support another person or even except the support another person is willing to provide if we are willing to allow them to take our hand.
My visit here in Pakistan a second time as I greet friends that I connected with during my last visit and new friends I have made during this visit, I now find myself reaching out without thought to touch another hand to connect better with the other person during conversations and various activities. I have come to realized that Paul and Linda McCartney really understood the value of hands transcending oceans and the powerful tie that hands play in connecting people “Hands across the waters, waters.” Hands across the water from the U.S. to Pakistan over time will build relationship by blending learning and healing in a manner that will transcend years of disconnected relationship into a connected affirmation of personal kinship.