Friday, January 23, 2009

The Power of a Woobie

It was my son who first taught me. He was my original "Linus", with a fleece blanket always in tow or close at hand. Once, when he was four, I was having a particularly tough day and I sat at the bottom of the stairwell to have a little private cry. Matt found me, and lay his blankie on my lap as his serious gaze assessed the situation. "Mama, everyone needs sof' blankies", he said. I tried to give his blankie back, thinking it too precious a gift. He wrapped it around me as best as he could, gave me a hug, and toddled off. I sat on the step, trying to regain my composure, pondering his loving actions.

As I rubbed his blankie against my cheek, I did feel better. Was it the tactile stimulation? The soothing softness? The love that had been hugged into that blankie by my son over several years? Or the love in his act of lending it to me? Why do sof' blankies have so much power to comfort and heal?

I've pondered this question many times over the years, primarily because I have four children. But I've come to the conclusion that the blankie's power to comfort, reassure, and heal is due to all four reasons.

Countless scientific studies have proven what every human knows from birth: soft things feel good. Especially when we rub them over our skin. This causes the release of endorphins in ou bodies, which result in a feeling of comfort, relaxation, and satisfaction.

Tactile stimulation, especially light rubbing and stroking over the skin, also relieves physical pain. This is because the brain can only take in so much physical stimuli at one time; biochemically, pleasant stimuli take precedence. If your leg is in pain, and you start lightly rubbing your arms and cheeks, you might find your pain lessen--because the brain is in essence "distracted" by the stimulus and the chemicals it releases inside of your body. It lets them into your central nervous system and reduces the number of pain chemicals that get in...kind of like letting the feel-good chemicals cut to the head of the line. Pretty cool, huh?

My oldest child has had a few different "specials" over the years, but they've all had one thing in common: they need an occasional "refill" of Mommy love, in the form of me hugging them long and tight. No matter how cute a doll or stuffed animal matter how pretty a blanket, quilt, or afghan is...the recipient always seems to be able to tell the difference between a store-bought one given with little thought, and something lovingly handmade or selected. Why is this?

Have you ever walked into a room and before one person looked at you or spoke, sensed love? Have you ever walked into a room and before one person looked at you or spoke, sensed a hostile, hateful environment? I think just about everyone has, at one time or another. I believe that we all have the capacity to sense love....and that a recipient can discern gift made or given with much love, which makes it that much more special.

Then, there's the act of giving. We are touched by a handmade gift because of all the hours, the skill, the work, the thoughtfulness, and the love that went into it. We are touched when someone offers to lend us their most precious possession, merely because they love us. "Oh, no", we say, "I couldn't possibly..." Yet they insist, whether or not we merit the object. True love is unconditional. True love deems us all worthy. And we are.

Over the years, I've made a lot of woobies. In our house, we all have one. When someone is discouraged, tired, ill, sad, frustrated, upset, or hurt, you'll see them with a woobie wrapped around their head or shoulders or torso, and somehow it seems to help the difficulties recede into the distance while the comfort infuses into our weary bodies and souls.

There's a really special international movement called the Prayer Shawl Ministry. The shawls may be knitted, crocheted, quilted, or sewn. Whether they are called Prayer Shawls, Comfort Shawls, Peace Shawls, or Mantles, etc., the shawl maker begins with prayers and blessings for the recipient. The intentions are continued throughout the creation of the shawl. Upon completion, a final blessing is offered before the shawl is sent on its way. Some recipients have continued the kindness by making a shawl and passing it onto someone in need. Thus, the blessing ripples from person-to-person, with both the giver and receiver feeling the unconditional, loving embrace.

I encourage you to embrace the power of the woobie for yourself or for someone special in your life. Try making even a simple one, and giving it to someone you love. You never know how much it may bless you...

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