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Life & Hands

I work in a clinic that manages patients who use blood thinners. I see a versatile demographic of people from young to elderly, rich to poor, thin to obese, etc. The one thing I've thought of in earnest recently is people's hands. I know it's a silly thing to think about really, but I find them truly mesmerizing. There's a lifetime of stories in people's hands and when you think about it, that's amazing. There is literally a lifetime of memories right there on two palms and ten fingers.

I look at my hands and I see the scars from the number of cuts I've gotten over the years. Cuts suffered from running through thick brush during summers spent at my grandparents. Cuts from handling wood without gloves. A scar from the single stitch I needed in the skin that stretches between my middle and ring fingers when I tried to core an apple with a steak knife... while it was sitting in my hand. I have scars from burns, evidence of a childhood I spent in the kitchen. When I was five, I learned that we don't put our hands on pans that are on the stove because when they're on the stove, they're hot, and two decades later I still have the scar to prove it. I have two blood vessels on the surface my hands, one on one palm and the other on one pinkie. I have freckles at the base of my palm and in the middle of fingers that I've had for as long as I can remember, veins that are distinct in pattern and location, small scars on my knuckles from the games of bumper cars they've played with concrete and doorjambs, and so much muscle memory from the years of use. The tips of my fingers have lower ridge detail than most because I've chewed them compulsively as a nervous habit for years. There's a callous on my palm and a white, worn path on my ring finger where my wedding ring has made it's home. Some of the additions to my hands are new: a new freckle, the chipped remains of teal nail polish, a healing paper cut. Whether new or old, these features make up my hands and my hands define me. My hands hold pens, pencils, paintbrushes, phones, they type on this keyboard, they manage a needle and thread, create food to sustain mine and the lives of my family. They are the instruments of my mind, painting the picture on the canvas of my life. I look at my hands and I see all of these things. And I am just one person out of 7.34 billion.

How can I not think of the lives of others when I look at my hands and think of my own? When did we as human beings, become desensitized to the lives of those around us? In an increasing need for happiness and an innate desire to survive in this world, we have started creating barriers in our hearts and minds against other people. We are slow to trust, skeptical in nature, cautious, and defensive. Not to say that's not for good reason but it prevents us from looking at each other as fellow people, individuals with a story and a history and a life. When I see my patients, people whom I have come to know by name and by face, I often find my thoughts drifting to their pasts. Wondering where they come from, how they came to be here, what they're thinking, who they've met, where they've been? And I look at their hands. Most of them have hands that are wrinkled and sun-spotted, indicating a full life well spent. Some have hands that are blackened by their jobs. Others are young, soft and unblemished, promising the potential of a life ahead, unmarked by pain or punishment. There are those who have dirt under their finger nails and are stained with Popsicle juice. Some are light skinned, others dark skinned. Regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, our hands are hands and behind those hands is a single, solitary individual completely unique from the other 7.34 billions in this world. All so alike and yet, completely remarkable. What have those hands touched? Whose hands have they shaken? What is the life that those hands have represented?

In closing, I want to challenge you to relate to people on a human level. Whether you're talking to a friend, family member, waitress, cashier, stranger, child, client or patient, I challenge you to see the life behind the hands of the people we inhabit this earth with and in doing so, remember that we are all intertwined individuals. Remember that we are not alone, not the center of our own universes but that we are all unique strands in a grand tapestry. Our hands, like our lives, are our hands alone and no one can accomplish with them what we can. No one's hands are better, and no one's are lesser. Some have experienced so much, and some have experienced nothing at all. Remember to consider others without judgement and imagine their life... through their hands.


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