ShakeToday’s Word: ‘SHAKE’ as in… shall we shake hands? Or is there another way to greet one another?

Seth Godin, a brilliant author, speaker and blogger suggested recently that handshaking may just be on its way out. “In the future” he writes, “there are no handshakes. Star Trek, Star Wars or even Spaceballs. No one shakes hands.”

The custom of shaking hands is really only about 500 years old. It was introduced by the Quakers who reasoned that handshaking was far more egalitarian than tipping a hat or bowing. Seth Godin goes on to point out that “along with being a vector for disease transmission, handshakes reward a certain sort of powerful personality and penalize people who might be disabled or uninterested in that sort of interaction. And judging people by the strength of their grip doesn’t make much sense anymore. Until a week or two ago, deciding not to shake someone’s hand was seen as odd and a bit insulting. Today, it comes across as generous.”

So what to do?

An alternative practice for intentionally greeting one another in a way that acknowledges the health concerns of many, honors the preferences and practices of a wide number of people and still maintains the integrity of actually greeting one another might look something like this: When we encounter one another individually or in a group, instead of reaching out to take a hand, we might instead simply place our hand on our chest – over our heart, look one another in the eyes, and say “Peace be with you.”

How refreshingly lovely! In the context of a faith community, we could say, “May God’s blessing be on you” or “May the peace of Christ be with you.” I

’m captivated by the generosity of this very different sort of greeting and the kindness that it conveys. It seems to me that we could all use more kindness and peace. And if doing something as simple and yet as different as looking at you with my hand on my heart does that, then I’m all for it.

Let’s shake on it.


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