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“I have met people so empty of joy that when I clasped their frosty fingertips it seemed as if I were shaking hands with a northeast storm. Others there are whose hands have sunbeams in them, so that their grasp warms my heart. It may be only the clinging touch of a child’s hand, but there is as much potential sunshine in it for me as there is in the loving glance for others” (Helen Keller).
OUR HANDS ARE MORE THAN JUST ANOTHER PART OF OUR BODIES. If our bodies are the instruments through which we do our work in the world, it’s our hands, especially, that do that work. The Book of Ecclesiastes, for example, says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” Something that has been accomplished by an individual is that person’s “handiwork.” A disadvantage in our work is said to be a “handicap.” And, of course, something that helps us do our work is described as “handy.” No part of the body is more closely linked to the doings of human beings than the hands.
Have you ever noticed how much hands say about a person’s character? The hands reveal hardly any less than the face. I once met an artist, in fact, who did nothing but hands. She sculpted hands, drew them, painted them, photographed them, and even wrote poems about them, as I recall. Children’s hands and aged people’s hands. Rugged hands and delicate hands. Friendly hands and hostile hands. The whole gamut of human feeling and experience was powerfully and beautifully portrayed by these hands, artistically rendered.
Most of us have clear memories of hands we’ve known in the past. Can’t you remember your grandmother’s hands? The hands of your piano teacher? Your baseball coach? These images should remind us: we’re remembered for what we do and not just for what we are.
Having healthy, functional hands is not a thing to be taken for granted; it’s a sober stewardship. With these physical extensions of our will we can do either good or evil, and we’re responsible for the choices that we make. What we “hand” down to our descendants needs to be something that will invite thanksgiving rather than regret. And there is not a one of us who can’t do this. No matter who we are, we can do worthy work. With our hands, we can work what is good and honorable and useful to those who are coming along behind.
Enough, if something from our hands have power
To live, and act, and serve the future hour.