I’ve traveled and been to a number of countries, and what I found was Americans are by far the most touchy-feely. That’s why social distancing is beyond hard for us. It’s part of our DNA.

We are compelled to shake hands, hug, high-five, knuckle touch, or pat a child on the head. We are physically drawn toward each other like no other place in the world. In Southeast Asia, long-lost friends greet each other with a polite bow. In Australia, it seems there is always a tankard of ale blocking a hug or a handshake. I saw social touching in France, but it seemed nonspontaneous, rehearsed and brazen, as in “hey-look-at-us.”

This part of us is slipping away and making us feel hollow. We need to get it back before being colder toward others becomes OK. I think the touchy-feely chromosome is nurtured in Americans, and it adds to what makes us strong. It drives first responders to respond just that much quicker. It has something to do with the “leave no soldier behind” mantra. It makes us stop for someone waiting to cross a street, or makes us wish we had. It makes us nod and smile at passing strangers. It might start small with a pat on the head, but in time it grows into full-fledged compassion for each other.

When social distancing is no longer a law, social approaching should become one, until we get back whatever slipped away.

Mike Hayden


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