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Sunday, May 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: The True Value of a Handshake: A Forgotten Gesture


Times have ⁢changed, folks. They certainly have. There was‍ an ⁢era when we knew‌ our ​neighbors, when the local butcher remembered how you liked your steaks cut, when‌ a handshake was as good as a signed contract – but those days seem to have up and vanished like the Schenectady fog on a sunny morning.

I go back and forth to Price Chopper nowadays – armed with my mask and sanitizer, mind you. What do⁣ I see? Rows upon‌ rows of people not talking, but​ scrolling endlessly on their devices. It’s a sight that riles me, a fifty-year-old‍ lifelong resident ‍of⁤ Schenectady, NY, not ​because I don’t embrace new technology or change,‍ but because we’re slowly forgetting the value of⁤ personal, human connections. All this ⁣touchless ‍society has does is make ​us more…​ well, touchless.

There’s‌ a hidden treasure‍ in the simple ‍act of ​a handshake, one that I⁤ feel has been overlooked ⁤in today’s age of digital minimal contact. To the untrained eye, it seems​ just‌ like a polite gesture. But I’ve⁤ always seen‍ it as⁢ something more profound. A silent vow made in open exchange – an unspoken promise of trust and respect. But well, that’s the perspective of old man Brian McCarthy, who genuinely⁢ believed in the saying, “my word is my‍ bond.”

Whenever I walked around Union College during my younger ​years, every opportunity‍ to give a firm handshake to a professor or a fellow student was also an opportunity to establish an‍ immediate rapport. A‍ handshake was ⁢more than simply a‌ polite formality; it was⁢ a bridge that transcended the spoken language and touched the⁢ purest form of communication.

My father (God rest his soul) ​was a man⁢ of few words ⁤but a powerful handshake. ⁣I ‍remember him brokering⁢ deals over at the old Van Vranken Hardware store, scribbling numbers on small scraps ​of paper and sealing‌ everything with a firm handshake. No⁣ fancy documentation, no legal mumbo-jumbo.⁤ Just two men, a promise, and a⁢ handshake. Those deals⁣ held higher standing⁢ than any legally binding paper ‍you ‌might sign today.

Remember⁣ the handshake shared between politicians back⁤ in the day? Two world powers would come‍ to blows on the ⁢global front, but if they managed to reach some personal agreement, it was made apparent with a ‌public handshake ​–‍ the world’s most crucial truces and deals sealed with a ​simple act that conveyed trust and integrity. A handshake⁣ was an ⁣emblem of peace‍ and mutual understanding, the binding‍ force⁣ that was expected to withstand‌ the trials of ⁤political maelstroms.

I’ve⁤ seen this town evolve and ‌witnessed ⁣handshake slowly but surely get replaced by soulless contracts. Now, I understand the necessity for precautions. We ⁢live in different times. ‍There’s an added layer of legal security that comes with written agreements and digital transactions. But, the sanctity that a handshake held, the trust⁣ that it built, that ⁢was priceless.

I fear that, ⁤just like the classic handshake, we are‌ fast ‌abandoning the intrinsic value of human⁢ interaction​ – replacing it with⁤ impersonal emails and one-dimensional ‍emojis. ⁣The entire fabric⁣ of human connections seems to be going⁢ through⁣ a not-so-subtle shift, and the consequences are hard to predict at ⁢this point.

We’ve faced quite a few adversaries in ⁢this proud town. From the stifling⁢ heat waves in the 60s to the relentless recession of the 80s, and now, this tiresome pandemic. We’ve weathered every storm standing‌ together making countless silent promises through clasped hands. And, let’s not forget the blizzard back in ‌’77 where we dug ourselves out with little more than‍ neighborliness, tenacity, and a knowing, encouraging handshake exchanged over a borrowed‌ shovel.

The world is more technologically connected than⁢ ever before, but it feels we are growing ⁤more ⁢emotionally⁣ disconnected. ⁢And it all starts by missing something as simple and sincere‍ as a handshake, as this old Schenectadian sees it.

We stand here now, in the‍ midst of​ an era where safety comes first, where the simple act of a handshake is governed by the fear⁢ of an invisible virus. A handshake carries risks today. But then, who can argue with safety?

Still, it compels⁤ me to ponder on⁣ what we’ve⁢ lost and what‍ we stand ​to lose‌ further. As we ⁣retreat each day⁢ deeper ⁣into the digital and physical isolation,‍ I can’t help but yearn for the simpler times where trust and connection could be communicated through the simple act of a ​handshake.

But that’s just ​me,‍ Brian ⁤McCarthy, longing for a touch of the past while we hurtle toward a touchless ⁢future.

Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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