I am a very social person. Truly, one of the most social people I know. In law school, I became close with someone who was the shyest person I had ever met. He was actually so quiet, he scared me. I fear I don’t connect well with shy people. (*And Sean assures me they’re far more scared/annoyed by me.)
I’m also a very touchy/feely person. I get that from my mom. If we’re talking to you, we’re probably also holding your hand or touching your shoulder. I know people differ on this, but I’m big into human contact.
On November 28, 2001, then-Senator Byron Dorgan took me to the U.S. Senate floor and I shook hands with then-Gen. Colin Powel. I was 17 and in awe.
In 2004, at my first Democratic convention, then-Senator and Vice-Presidential nominee, John Edwards (yes, I’ll well aware of how his story unfolded, but my God I thought he was hot back then), held my hand as he stood next to me in the aisle and continued to hold it as he shook the hands of others. I melted. I briefly met Dan Rather in 2010, to have him sign my book at a symposium. He had just finished speaking about his hero, Eric Sevareid (a ND native), and cried beautiful tears during much of his speech, and he was still teary eyed by the time I got to his table. As he spoke with me and asked me questions, he held my hand. It was so genuine and very memorable.
In 2008, I held then-Senator Barack Obama’s hand for just a few moments as he shook the hands of others. In the photo my friend Matt took, I beamed like a smitten schoolgirl. Someone also captured me fist bumping Elton in Bismarck at his April, 2011, concert. It was the best time of my life. Just me and Elton for a second there. And when I shook President Clinton’s hand in 2012, after I nearly fainted from my early stages of my first pregnancy, I felt like I completed my bucket list (Elton and Bill Clinton were two people I hoped to meet, and I’ve since forgotten the third person).
Over Christmas, I attended church with my mom. I’m a born and raised Catholic. And as we did parts of our sit, stand, kneel, repeat routine, I found myself kneeling as people passed me in a line to receive Communion. In just a few moments, I received many taps, hand-holds, and brushes on my arm that said, Hi Jackie, happy to see you. It really hit me that not only was I “home,” where I always feel loved, but how much I miss human contact. How much I crave it.
I heard yesterday on the radio that humans need twelve hugs per day to release the good hormones that come from human contact. 4 to survive; 8 to keep on; and 12 to be complete.
I’m going on four years now without not only daily banter in my office, but daily human, physical contact. With my colleagues, random run-ins at the courthouse with others, even with clients. I used to get hugs from clients who were happy and sometimes afraid. As we finished up sentencing hearings in federal court, 9 times out of 10, my client jumped out of his chair and hugged me. At the very least, before they were led away in cuffs, they received a fist bump and a “good luck,” from me.
It may sound weird, but I can tell you there’s something unexplainable and humbling about your job when you meet someone for the first time, who was arrested, taken to a cell, and is now sitting in a courtroom the size of a college basketball arena, while in handcuffs. Every time, I put my hand on their shoulder and said, “It’s going to be OK.” Every time. I took my job very seriously, and never did I want a client to feel alone or unwanted, no matter that client’s behavior in the past (criminal or civil).
I knew the power of my words, but I also knew the power of my hand on someone’s shoulder in their time of crisis. I’ve always believed in the power of a hug to diffuse some tension or to say, I’m sorry. I enjoy meeting new people with a handshake. I like teaching a toddler how to give knuckles. I love high fives.
It really hit me hard that day in church: I miss people. I’m tired of being home. I miss daily contact. I miss my job. I hate Covid. I want more people around me. I long for the days when I can happily shake hands and freely give hugs, maybe even in a crowd. I hope that’s coming again soon.
Sending virtual love to you. And a high five.
Yeah, you got that somethin’ I think you’ll understand When I feel that somethin’ I want to hold your hand I want to hold your hand I want to hold your hand I want to hold your hand ~ I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles