A Muse about Hands


I was standing in line at the store the other day,
Waiting for the person in front of me who was buying Valentines candy that
was half off
(what on earth was she going to do with all of that chocolate for the next year?)
I was sick of looking at the tabloid covers
So I started to notice hands.
I have always been fascinated by people’s hands. Maybe because I am a nurse, I notice hands more than the average person.
I remember in nursing school one of my instructors saying that we would start noticing people’s hands in line at the grocery store.
She was right.
Looking at hands gives me clues into a person’s life. I don’t know if I am always right, but I enjoy imagining what a person does in their everyday life when I look at their hands.
The woman buying all of that candy had capable looking hands with what looked like
green paint speckles on the backs of her knuckles.
No rings on her fingers.
Maybe she paints.

The woman who was checking out the Valentine candy shopper had somewhat
stocky hands.
Her fingers were short and round.
Her nails were different shades of color.
The colors on her right hand did not match the colors on her left.
They were polished in bright colors, and no two colors were the same.
I imagine that those different colors tell of a need to try new things, be brave and be bold. So she painted them different colors.
I can tell that the paint is not a professional job, so I imagine that she is frugal and feels that she can certainly do her nails herself without paying someone else to do it.
She also has about five different rings on various fingers. I think she likes to feel glamorous. In keeping with her assumed frugality it appears that those rings are cheap imitations of real rings. There might be one real ring in the bunch, probably a significant gift at one time or another.
My mind began to wander about other hands that I have seen.

The guy at the cell phone store has long thin fingers on his hands.
His nails are very well kept.
His hands are almost ladylike in their delicacy.
I imagine that he spends a lot of time on his computer.
Maybe he even plays the piano.
He’s probably very concerned about hygiene and neatness, since his nails are so clean.
And he probably spends very little time doing manual labor.
I have seen thick and calloused hands on men in line at the store.
They are usually holding a carton of milk and a dozen eggs.
They have dirt around their nails.
Their hands are clean, like they have scrubbed them, but some dirt remains.
Their fingers are cracked and stained.

Those types of hands tell me of a hard working manual laborer.
Someone who is concerned about not appearing dirty, yet lots of soap and water cannot wash out years of hard work.

Those kinds of hands are on men like badges of honor, for all they have done their whole life was with those hands.
I imagine that those hands can chop wood, milk cows, build homes and fix cars.
And can only scramble eggs.

When I am in the hospital I see all kinds of hands.
I see diabetic hands, with discolored yellow fingernails.
I see heart failure hands, with clubbed fingernails and swollen fingers.
I see bruised hands where IVs and bloods draws were attempted and failed.
I see bandaged hands, where fingers were broken or hurt.
I see deformed hands and fingers, from arthritis, old age, and accidents.
I see beautiful, perfect baby hands, with little fingernails and tiny fingers.
I see shaking hands, from Parkinson’s or other tremor causing conditions.
I see hands clenched in anger at a situation.
I see hands swinging and agitated due to delirium or confusion.
I see (and feel) cold hands.
I see (and feel) warm hands.
I see people with one hand.
I see people missing fingers on their hands.
I see hands with good veins, and hands with bad veins.
I see hands outstretched just wanting someone to hold them for a little while.
I also see nurses’ hands.
And I know that I am biased, but I think that nurses have some of the most caring and capable hands in the world.
But every hand has a story.
And every hand has done something amazing.
And every hand is so unique it takes my breath away
(think of those individual fingerprints on each hand)
And when I look at my own hands I am reminded of this quote:

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”  Martin Luther

And of the most Amazing Hands I have ever known:

 Then said He [Jesus to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger and behold My hands… and be not faithless, but believing.” John 20:27


And I am thankful for the reminder of hands.

So next time you see someone, take a look at their hands. You don’t even have to be a nurse to observe hands.
And have fun imagining what they do every day.
What else are you going to do while waiting in line?


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