Last month, my wife and I attended a wonderful Christmas concert at a local church. It was nearly two hours of music, ranging from choral to hand bells to orchestral; from traditional Christmas fare to some gorgeous pieces we'd never heard.
Since my daughter-in-law was performing in the hand bell choir, we'd volunteered to take care of three-year-old Tyler during the concert.
I've never met a three-year-old who'd sit quietly through two hours of anything.
I've never met a three-year-old who'd sit quietly through two hours of anything. Still, Tyler was doing better than we'd expected, sitting in Grandma's lap, playing with his book and looking around at all the bright decorations. He was especially quiet when the brass section of the orchestra chimed in—seems he's transfixed by horns.
Then, about half-way through the program, it became clear we'd pushed his attention span to the limit—horns notwithstanding. I suppose if there had been other kids running up and down the aisles we wouldn't have reigned him in, but we decided his choice was between sitting more or less still, or heading out to the hall.
For the rest of the concert, he tested our resolve, squirming to get down, sometimes throwing his arms up and inadvertently slamming the book into Grandma's face.
It was as if an electric circuit had been broken.
After one such assault, I reached over and simply took firm hold of Tyler's hand. I expected a little struggle. Instead, it was as if an electric circuit had been broken. Right away, without even looking at me, he stopped squirming. All that impatience, all that energy, seemed suddenly channeled toward that little hand. I felt it and responded by relaxing my grip, resting my open hand, palm up, on my thigh.
Instead of pulling away, Tyler kept his hand where it was. For the next 20 minutes, he unconsciously explored the contours of my palm, thumb and each finger. His hand was warm and dry; it felt good in mine. I experienced a flow of something powerful through that curious touch, a sensation that simultaneously opened and centered me.
What was it about Tyler's touch that quieted both him and me so suddenly, so completely?
I knew I was connected with something pure and timeless. The slight anxiety I'd been feeling about his possibly disrupting the service just melted away. Now the music seemed to touch me more deeply than it had a few minutes before. The aura of strangers sitting nearby seemed to wrap snugly around us. I felt closer than ever to my wife.
I was calmly, silently happy.
What was it about Tyler's touch that quieted both him and me so suddenly, so completely? What was the unconscious message he spoke so softly, yet so articulately? I decided not to ruin its magic by asking.