Hands Up

Sometimes I sit towards the back of the class as the Grade 5/6 kids gather on the carpet in front of the SmartBoard. The teacher was rolling through a Language lesson this afternoon, and most of the kids were engaged.

I looked at the variety of human beings spread before me. Outgoing, shy, adventurous, cautious … all of that is good. The world needs each of their flavours.

“Jeremy” often asked questions and I got to see hands going up. Quite a few of them, actually, like a little forest.

Every volunteering arm seemed to be straight up – beyond the crown of the head. Some fingers waved frantically. The kids so much wanted to be heard. I loved it.

I thought back many years to a time when I worked with blind children from Grade 5 to Grade 8. The hands of sighted classmates taught me. Grade 5’s showed me the same thing that I saw today. Gradually over the grades, however, the fingers stopped waving, and the height of hands dropped down to shoulder level. And there were far fewer volunteers.

Is this what happens to us human beings as we grow older? Do we gradually forget the zest and the thrill of sharing our thoughts? Yes, for some of us. There often is a dampening, a suppression, a desire not to stand out.

Ah, dear adults … let us return to the waving fingers. Let us stand up and be seen. Let us contribute our uniqueness to the general good. There is much work to be done.


Today I took the ferry to Toronto Island for a brunch and concert at St. Andrew-by-the-Lake Church. The pews were facing each other as we started in on our frittata and greens. The woman beside me was probably in her 80s and had the most beautiful white hair. I told her so. Then I looked down at her left hand.

The skin was pale, the wrist tiny. The veins were scarcely visible. I was reminded of the word “alabaster” without really knowing what that means. Her forearm had me recalling fine china. It was a work of art. There was no thought about how wonderfully functional hands are, just the beauty of the shape. I turned quiet.

I sat in the front row to hear thirteen woodwind and brass musicians. I was only three feet from a young clarinetist. I asked her if I was too close. She smiled and said “No”. My new friend often had solos. During her fast runs, I gazed at her fingers flying over the keys. When she played a trill, one finger bounced up and down. I watched her digits spread and then come together. I watched the long bones of her hand appear and disappear. I stared.

Towards the back of the ensemble stood a woman playing the double bass (a really big violin, sort of). Her fingers held the bow so gracefully, and her hand twisted subtly as the bow caressed different strings. The fingers of her left hand almost smashed down on the strings to create the notes, and then would rotate as her vibrato gave us a rich, wavering sound.

Hands in motion, hands at rest. Thank you, God, for creating such wonders.

And now there are mine, tapping away on the phone to make meaning with you. Think I’ll set this device down for a minute and take a look.

Hmm. I know these hands. They’ve been with me for quite a while. I know the veins. I know the scar on my right wrist and smile at its origin. I see where Jody’s wedding ring used to be. Four years ago there was an empty groove in my skin … all gone now. And I do love the long bones.


Quite the art gallery – my hands, yours, everyone’s. I think they deserve applause.