I wish the new Fox show Touch had a different title. If it did, then maybe the first picture in my head would not be as follows …
An 8-year-old and a 10-year-old—siblings—are in the back seat of a car on a long road trip. They have been bickering for an hour, and in the past five minutes an edict has been passed down from the passengers in the front seat of the car that the passengers in the back seat are not to speak to each other until further notice. The children turn away from each other and look out the car windows for a few moments, until one of them turns back, silently gets the attention of the other, and draws an invisible line on the seat between them. Then, just as silently, the sibling who drew the invisible line between them inches her fingers closer to the line. Finally, with a single pointer finger she crosses the line and pokes her sibling’s leg with a single, whispered word: “Touch.” (I may or may not have been one of the siblings in this scenario on any given day in my childhood. Come on—you know you were, too.)
On its face, the sibling road trip scenario of course has no connection to the premise of the television series Touch. Touch is about issues far deeper than the games of sibling rivalry. It is about a father named Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland) and his desperate, determined effort to connect with his autistic son, Jake (David Mazouz). More than that, Touch is a show about how we are all connected.
In his inner monologue, Jake expresses his worldview this way: “Every individual hope you harbor, every dream you attain, every desire you fulfill has an impact far greater than you can imagine.”
Now, I don’t know if there are real people who have Jake’s aptitude for seeing and understanding the ways in which humans are and need to be connected, but I do know his statement is absolutely true. Our dreams, our hopes, our desires aren’t just for us, and they never impact us alone.
Those of us who know this truth best probably have a story about how we’ve been burned or stepped on by someone else attempting to attain their dreams or fulfill their desires. We are the collateral damage. We are the children of parents who dreamed of getting something else out of their marriage, who, when they didn’t get it, divorced. We are the employees whose tireless efforts were used by a co-worker to hijack the promotion we were promised. We the friends left behind by friends who placed their personal happiness or gain above our friendship. We are the ones whose pain began when someone we love acted on the desire to end their own pain without considering the fact that we are all connected.
Even though it often seems easier to see the negative impact that others’ hopes, dreams, and desires pursued selfishly have on our lives, thankfully that isn’t the whole picture. People who have hope, who reach for dreams, who pursue and fulfill virtuous desires, change the world—all of it and us—for the better. In fact, they might be the only people who can or ever have. These people may sound bigger than life or higher than human, but they aren’t. We’ve seen them. We may even know them. We can be (and are) them. They are the cancer survivors who keep hoping and fighting and reminding us all to keep living. They are the writers who play with words and ideas in a vacuum but who, by living their dreams, reach a global audience. They are the people who serve cheerfully, knowing that there is no such thing as a mundane task in a world where all are connected.
We must never forget the truth that Jake expresses on Touch this way: “What appears to be an individual is actually a network.” No one is ever just one. Because of this, the actions of one person can crush entire communities. They have, and while we have to forgive when this happens, we shouldn’t forget. Instead, we should use these painful experiences to help us act differently in the future, when the choice is ours. The other side of the fact that “no one is ever just one” gives amazing positive power. A smile and kind word can travel around the world. What we do and what we say and who we are today matters. Our hopes, dreams, desires and choices are just as powerful to harm or heal those around us as the hopes, dreams, desires and choices of others that have harmed or healed us. We are all connected, and none of the invisible lines we try to draw to separate ourselves—as if we are children back in the car on a long road trip—can temper the power of the inevitable: “Touch.”
Rachel Decker has written a number of contributions for RELEVANT magazine, most on the subject of television. Check out her blogs at RachelDeckerSpeaks.com and Head-Over-Wheels.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rdeckerspeaks.