Blessing the Hands

Posted on May 14, 2010


A few days ago my news reader brought up a picture that took my breath away. It was the first shot of a video clip, or I would include it here: one set of hands, gently wrapped around another set of hands, folded gently inside. At first glance, the outer hands are the working hands, giving comfort and strength. But it is the inner hands that go forward to work and heal and do, strengthened by a brief blessing from those shielding outer hands.

I’ve always been fascinated by hands. My grandmother’s hands were deeply veined and papered with a thin layer that was very soft and surprisingly elastic. I loved to touch her hands, and she used to “pet” mine like a cat. My father’s hands were coarse and hairy and freckled and burned from welding berries, plump with muscle, skin stretched tight. My babies’ hands were soft and fat with short fingers of surprising grasp, that have grown and lengthened like a time-lapse video of a flower blooming. I’ve watched my own hands change over time, first smooth, then coarse, then elastic, now wrinkled, always with those large pores breathing, another reminder of their mannish strength and just-short-of-feminine tenacity.

Hands are for work. 27 bones in each hand link together to form a structure that can do almost anything – grasp, push, pull, dig, write, paint, and play a musical instrument, from the most intense labor to the finest movements. Hands are also finely tuned to relay information to us, with over 2500 nerve receptors per square centimeter, more than any other area of our body. Hands are our connection with the world outside us, as we manipulate almost all of our circumstances with our hands. And hands communicate, as energy flows away from one person to another when contact is made.

Hands are a powerful symbol of what we get ourselves into, clean hands being as important as a pure heart, we’re told. Hands are the first part of us that touches another person, whether in anger or in love. Hands are the part of us that extends beyond our soul in any action.

What does it mean to bless the hands that heal? Why does this simple symbolic action bring such great peace to both individuals? I will think about this for many years before I fully understand it. I’ve been thinking about hands for a long time.

This I know: all hands need blessed. Just as we can’t serve from an empty tray, we need a moment to be reminded of what our hands have the ability to do: a quiet, still moment where nothing is required but to receive a blessing, a pausing in the doing.

Open your hands right now and look at them. What are they like? What will they do today? What will they affect, communicate, and give? What will they feel and communicate back to your soul? Who will bless them? Whose hands will they bless?

I challenge you to bless someone’s hands today, and to fold yours into someone else’s, and to tell us about it.

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