Thursday, July 24, 2008

Red Letters Campaign - Attachment

Warning: this is a longer if you're looking for family pictures and fluff, you might wanna check back another day! This post is part of the Red Letters Campaign Blog Buzz - - an opportunity for families to share experiences with adoption and ending poverty...check out other posts on the topic of attachment at their website!

When I began as a Lactation Counselor, I was let in on a little secret about Breastfeeding:
Skin-to-skin time between mother and baby can solve the majority of breastfeeding problems.

Healthy newborn babies who are placed on the mothers' chests immediately after birth have the natural instinct to squirm and wiggle to the breast, find the nipple, and latch on. Of course, we're usually too busy running tests, taking pictures, counting fingers and toes, and oohing and ahhing to allow that to happen, so 3-4 hours later when mom is ready to try breastfeeding, we sometimes run into problems.

So when we get calls from moms who have problems with breastfeeding, one of the things we encourage them to do is simply spend some time skin to skin. Lay on the couch, or in bed, or in a warm bath with a naked baby on their chest. Slow down. Allow time for nuzzling and cuddling. Let the baby hear your heart beating. Get to know each other. Relax. Doctors have found that babies who are not born healthy also benefit from skin to skin time. Kangaroo Care is often encouraged in the hospital's NICU for mom or dad and baby, where the baby is put directly inside a parents' shirt and worn there. Baby gets to know the the mom's heartbeat and recognize mom's smell. It's a safe place and bonding and attachment can happen through skin to skin time.

Jesus was all about "skin-to-skin" time. He understood that loving people, meeting their needs, meant really knowing them and getting up-close and personal.

In John 9, Jesus heals a man born blind by spitting in the dirt and mixing a mud to put on the man's eyes. He had the power to heal people without touching them, but he chose to rub his hands on this man's eyes.

In Matthew 8, a man with Leprosy comes to Jesus and says, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." This was a man who was no doubt living in isolation, forced to announce himself "Unclean!", as he walked down the streets. Embarrassed and ashamed, as children screamed and ran away from him... I wonder if he dreamt at night of the touches from his wife, his children. Jesus could have spoken the word from a distance and he would be healed. Instead, "Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean.' " Skin to skin.

Jesus lived life skin to skin with people - feeding, washing feet, teaching, eating. In Matthew 26 at the Last Supper, we're given a picture of the disciples reclining at the table with Jesus (not the picture that shows all of the disciples sitting on one side of a table!). Reclining. Skin to skin. Together.

It makes sense to me that if we want to attach ourselves to the poor and suffering, we need to practice skin to skin time with them. We need to know the poor. Touch the sick. Hear the stories of the orphans and widows. Of course, we need to be sharing our resources - - money, time, talents - - but let's not forget the resource of our SKIN. Every community has opportunities to not only provide money, but also get to know the people who are suffering.

  • The college ministry we work with has been trying to love people skin to skin. College students cook and serve breakfast at a local mission where the guests are served at tables, rather than passing through a line. After the food is served, students sit down and eat with these new friends, asking about their lives and listening to their stories.
  • This year, after hearing about an orphanage in Kenya with a food shortage, students raised over $12,000 to meet needs. And then they sent some skin. 6 of our students just returned from Kenya, where they spent some time playing with children, hugging kids with HIV and skin conditions, kids who were displaced by recent violence in Kenya, kids whose alcoholic parents may show up and take them back to the slums at any time. They blew bubbles and wiped noses and played clapping games.
  • Our community has an overflow shelter for the homeless on cold winter nights. Students take overnight shifts working at the shelter, spending some skin to skin time in late-night conversations about politics, life, and God.
We attach ourselves to the poor and the suffering by getting to know them. By hearing their stories, seeing their pain, touching their wounds. Our money is important, but it should come with some skin.


Melinda said...

Great post Gretchen! I couldn't agree more, thanks for posting this.

Paul and Deedra said...

This is a great nugget for me to read. I am so task-oriented, that I often forget the humanity and realness of the people I am trying to help. I appreciate your insight and will take it to heart next time I feel I just want to get on with my to-do list instead of listening to someone and being a shoulder for them to lean on.

Irenic Seeker Mama said...

This is a great post. I have a lot I want to write about this post but not the time to write at the moment. So, thank you. This really spoke to me!

AprylMay said...

This image and your thoughts have circled around my head all week. I'm trying to get back "in touch" with Jesus, so I've been reading Mark. Every time I read about Jesus touching someone, I feel warm and fuzzy, smile, and write a note in the morgin to remember during the times I forget.