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Gail Oliver Cambridge | September 1, 2020

Engage your senses, don’t be on autopilot!

The other day I was feeling down in the dumps…I hope a few of you remember this slang! Thoughts filtered through my mind as I wondered what brought on the gloomy feeling—the pandemic, lost lives, violent unrests? Then a memory of baking bread flashed across my mind. Immediately, the image and the recollection of the aroma of freshly baked bread cheered me up. I first tried baking bread a few months ago and the outcome was great. Even now as I remember taking out the freshly baked bread from the oven, cutting a thick slice, slathering on butter that soon melted, and then adding cheese, ham, etc., oh how my mouth is watering for it!

A study found that the aroma of freshly baked bread made people kinder to each other. The sense of smell, who knew? Our senses are on autopilot in various ways as we go through our day, so we don’t ever stop to think about how we engage them. This led me to thinking of the different ways we can uplift someone’s spirits just by engaging each of our senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch.

Hearing – You can call someone and give them good news. Don’t have anything new? I am sure hearing how much you love them and sharing fond memories would warm friends’ hearts. Your voice filled with laughter would bring them joy. Recall when you and your partner were first in love and anxiously awaiting the other’s call, and when his/her voice came on perhaps with a little music playing in the background, you were both transported to another dimension. Let’s speak words of kindness so that the hearer is gratified.

Sight – Mask up and go visit a friend while staying six feet apart. You can also plan a lunch date. I am loving the outdoor seating options! However, if you are hesitant about meeting in person, share a meal with them via Zoom or Facetime. To make it special, decorate your table with your finest dishes, add flowers, and bring out your favorite libation. You can also play games or model your latest outfit for them. You know the saying “action speaks louder than words,” so show them you care by doing something tangible.

Smell – I mentioned the smell of freshly baked bread, but have you ever picked up a piece of clothing that your partner wore just to take in the scent? Years ago, a guy sat next to me on a bus who wore a cologne I loved. It took all my will power not to snuggle up to him. Another time, I caught a cab and as soon as I entered the driver told me the name of the cologne I was wearing and regaled me with the story of the first time he bought it in a red box for his girlfriend and how he couldn’t get enough of having her use it. Scents have a way of transferring us into another world. Order cologne, flowers, or whatever titillates the nose of your loved one.

Taste – There’s nothing like a plate of food to quell an argument. Go a step further and cook a meal with the person and let him/her taste the food while you are cooking it. Then sit down and enjoy a delicious meal. Can you be angry and eat at the same time? Do you have one of those juicy fruits, like mango, pineapple, or watermelon that has the juice running down your face as you eat it? Well, share it with someone. As a child, you may have experienced this as I had—offering your friends a tasty treat and holding it near the end for them to bite off a piece, and, of course, they bit your finger!

Touch – Sadly, apart from family members, we cannot greet each other with hugs these days. A gentle touch or power hug speaks volumes and can bring momentary relief to whatever is ailing. The touch of fingers massaging the body and other spa treatments can be heavenly. How to replace the touch? We can use our eyes and voices to convey it. Has anyone ever looked at you in such a loving way that you felt shivers down your spine? Have you ever sung a song, recited a poem, or read words from a favorite book to your partner? Just being fully present with the person is a touch in and of itself and sharing a good joke that causes deep belly laughter crosses the touch barrier.

In a strange way, I liken these senses and their extended connections to the way the Apostle Paul spoke about all our individual body parts belonging to Christ and collectively being a part of each other. Check out Romans 12: 4-5 LTB: Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each needs all the others.

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