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“Hands and Love”

Years ago, while picking out brick to pave a patio, I shook the hand of a master mason. I was astonished by the roughness of his calloused hands and immediately felt sorry for him, wondering how he could feel anything with his hands or express any tenderness with them. But then he picked up a fired brick with rough sharp edges and ran his hands lovingly across it as he told me the merits of one style over another. This was his trade and he knew it well.

My hands have never been anywhere near as rough as that mason’s, although there were a couple of summer jobs that gave me some serious callouses. Nowadays I know my fingers have just enough callousness (probably from frequently using sandpaper directly by hand) to make me frustrated with touch screens. I can’t use the fingerprint recognition on my smart phone, and the produce scales at Wegman’s are very unresponsive to my touch. Maybe you have the same first-world problem.

I have always been fascinated by the miracle of our hands. We all have them, but use them differently. Musicians can channel the idea of music and make it flow from their fingertips without thinking of exactly which fingers are doing what. If you can type well, you do it without really knowing what your fingers are doing. (I sometimes make typos where the letters I get are from the correct finger on the wrong hand – some kind of hand dyslexia I suppose). The skill, acquired through practice, of guiding hand tools can bring subtle joy – don’t you just love the feel of cutting a fine shaving with a smoothing plane? And there’s the wonderful feeling of your hand across a smooth surface. Have you ever been amazed at the tiny dimensional variances you can feel that you can’t even see? Think about the way a baseball pitcher affects the pitch by the way that he grips the ball. And how about holding hands – Is there anything more fundamental? They say eyes are a window into the soul – I think hands have a direct path to the heart.

My mother used to tell me that my hands were just like her father’s. She used to help him in his basement workshop, and she liked watching me working in mine. He was gone before I was old enough to do much with him. But I did learn a few things from him, and I have him to thank for my hands, genetically speaking. I am so grateful. (If you want to hear an emotional song about inheriting hands and such, search for My Mother’s Hands, sung by Debi Smith.)

May the coming season find you in the best spirit of appreciation and joy, and may you spread that around!

Al Kupchella
RWS Chairman