This is an opportune time to celebrate our hands. The notion has percolated in my brain since John Ballew, colleague and friend, introduced it in conversation earlier this week. As a pandemic circles the globe, news reminds us daily about the risk our possibly contaminated hands poses not only to ourselves but also to others. We are intentionally and justifiably distancing ourselves physically from each other. Additionally, we are practicing frequent and thorough handwashing in an effort to keep ourselves healthy and to avoid spread of virus to others. These are prudent concerns and important hygienic measures, but, in the process, let us not forget what miraculous appendages our hands truly are. Here are just a few examples that readily come to mind.
We create with our hands. Musicians delight themselves and others when they take musical instruments in hand and create melodies to soothe, to invigorate, and to transport us in varied and often profound ways. Chefs concoct sweet and savory culinary masterpieces to delight our expansive hodgepodge of tastes. We construct with our hands from small solo projects to team projects that erect skyscrapers and magnificent cathedrals. Seamstresses and clothing designers create lovely, well-crafted apparel to delight discriminating customers. Authors write books, poems, scripts and scores as creative genius flows from their brains into their hands. Artists capture the world and their own fertile imaginations with handmade creations using stone and clay, parchment, canvas, and paint.
We serve others with our hands. Surgeons save lives everyday with their well-practiced dexterity. Others in the healthcare industry examine and diagnose, deliver medication, and provide a range of treatments with hands-on care. Sanitation workers, home repair folks, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, and food servers are a few more specific examples of people who serve and sustain others with diligent use of their hands.
We comfort with our hands. We cradle, cuddle, caress, snuggle, and rock. We hug ourselves or others in times of fear, or anguish, and in times of joy. Touch and intimacy have powerful health benefits throughout our lives.
We emote with our hands. Expressions of concern, fear, welcoming, delight, reverence, and love frequently involve both our faces and our hands. With a gesture of stiffened arms and outward-facing palms we can distance ourselves from others. Alternately, we wave across a room and connect with another individual. We open our arms wide in greeting; we blow kisses; we place our hands tenderly over our hearts to express love and caring.
During a time when we might consider our hands to be a liability or perhaps even a danger, I urge you to consider what a true blessing they really are in their unique ten-fingered beauty and versatility. With each careful washing, thank your opposable thumbs. Thank your fingertips for the exquisite sensations of temperature, and texture, and contour they allow you throughout each day. Appreciate your hands and arms for the opportunity they provide you to connect physically with our wide, miraculous world and with other people. Wave to your neighbors as you make your daily walks through the neighborhood. And, at least once a day, I urge you to bless yourself with a long, leisurely, loving hug.
Stephen L. Hines, MD
March 20, 2020