Lately, I've been obsessed with hands. A recent trip to western North Carolina held several meaningful interactions with hands that I couldn't ignore it. It's a subject I've been fascinated with but have never really explored.
Many of my encounters with new acquaintances focuses on their hands. I immediately try to size them up analyzing the condition of their hands, palms and fingers. Sadly, my intuition is usually off. I'm guilty of judging people by their hands. On that roadtrip west, I met someone with dirty fingernails, and filthy hands and began to make assumptions. "Well, they don't practice good personal hygiene now do they?" or "How about a little soap and water buddy?" Not fair, I know. But, it challenges me as well. I'm an introvert by nature and most of the time I'd rather just not talk and get to know someone. My life as a military spouse has taught me otherwise. The social engagements, the meetings, the workshops, the jobs all taught me to think and act outside my comfortable little box. I make a little game out of it now and try to add up what I'm learning in the conversation with the condition of their hands. Inevitably, I learn of hardship, injury, or illness but I also learn of success, happiness and fulfillment. Soon enough, my initial assessment is crushed and what I find is I just want to hold their hands instead. The things people make, fix, build, and create leave indelible marks on their hands and they tell a story if you just take time to ask them to tell it. That's why hands are so mysterious to me. They have a secret history and unlock new layers to a person's life. That small conversation you had with the cashier at the grocery store unveiled the truth behind her bandaged hand. You find she isn't careless with tools or housekeeping chores, but instead, was just released from the hospital because of a serious illness and she had to be at work so she could help pay the bills. You offer support by listening and what little encouragement you can find in a situation like this. You made her smile maybe or perhaps made her think that everything really is going to be ok. You pat her hand and clench your fists as you leave thanking your lucky stars you are healthy.
My trip to western North Carolina had two significant visual encounters that pushed me into studying the hand and its symbolism. The first was a stay at an AirBnB that displayed a wooden cherub on the refrigerator. I found it curious since it was pointing up with his index finger. The second was when I walked around a local cemetery later that day and found a headstone with the same hand, pointing up with the index finger. I couldn't ignore the signs. What was the hand trying to tell me? After a little digging about the index finger pointing up, I found it was not uncommon to find such symbols on headstones. They are reminders to visitors about the path to heaven. So I'm exploring, drawing and painting more hands. I'm reading more scripture, listening to more spiritual leaders. That's why my hands are so dirty. It's not grime, its charcoal or oil pastels. That's not blood, it's crimson red acrylic paint. Don't be alarmed! I didn't get attacked by a robber, I just cut myself making a sculpture of praying hands. I'm looking for answers and asking myself, "am I on that path to heaven?"
Next time you're out, try judging a person by their hands and you'll quickly find you can't. But that's only if you take the time to have a real conversation with them. Maybe that's the path to heaven?