From Doris Redding, Parnell, Iowa: “My hands are mostly busy working in various ways for MCC. I volunteer at our thrift store where I greet donors and choose quality items to be sold and also weave rugs from recycled denim, corduroy and wool to be sold in the store. My hands are also busy quilting for our MCC Sale and making strawberry pies to be sold there as well as cooking for funeral and Bible School meals. I also use my hands in vegetable and flower gardening. I want my hands to be useful in serving others. I find it to be helpful in the grieving and healing after the accidental death of our only child. So I encourage you, dear reader, to fill your days in serving others to make your part of the world a better place. The only hands God has are our hands.”
From Marjorie Banman Neufeld, Goshen, Indiana:
“Why do you have brown spots on your hands?” inquires an inquisitive eight-year-old as I listen to him read while in a tutoring session. Hmmm! What to say? The first thing that came to my mind was, “Well, each spot is for someone I love.” Sensing he didn’t buy that, I came up with, “Maybe you have a grandmother or great-grandmother with brown spots on her hands. That just happens as your skin gets older.” A dermatologist might have dispensed more accurate information. Anyway, no comment followed about the blue-gray veins or what I call “non-essential” tremor which might have also prompted questions. Our hands are a work of art with fingers and thumbs to assist us in daily routines of food preparation, bathing, eating, cleaning, driving a car, clicking on the remote, using the computer and endless other tasks. A broken finger, in a splint after a car accident several years ago, left me wondering how in the world I would manage with one hand. Imagine putting in earrings, peeling potatoes or an orange, tying shoestrings, sweeping with a broom, making the bed, putting clothes on a hanger, washing dishes. A planned visit from an out-of-state friend coincided with my dilemma and was a God-send! As we face some of the challenges of ageing, we may have some limitations but they are often offset by what we have left. For me, being able to drive, cook, print notes for birthdays, anniversaries and get-well cards for family members and friends keeps my hands busy. Lately I have been writing my memoirs and also sorting through an accumulation of colored slides and photos and converting them to scrapbook pages to give to children and grandchildren for their birthdays. With thirteen grandchildren, (seven of them married), and nine great-grandchildren, I’m grateful for hands and health to relate to family, some of who live nearby and some out-of-state. Scripture reminds us of God’s hands holding us up (Ps. 18:39), our future being in God’s hands (Ps. 31:5), using our hands for honest work, (I Thess. 4:11), lifting up hands in praise, (Ps. 28:2), and God holding our hand, (Ps.73:23) along with many other verses. In contrast, there are reminders of what God hates, “Hands that shed innocent blood and do evil,” (Prov.:16-19). Despite the changing appearance and function of my hands, God’s goodness is unchanging. Meanwhile, I’ll check to see if I have some “age-defying” makeup on my shelf to apply on the top of my hands! SING THE STORY, Hymnal: A Worship Book Supplement II contains an appropriate aid relating to “hands.” (#157 Copyright Carol Penner, altered).
Response from Kathryn Aschliman: During my lifetime, I’ve given attention to the hands of children. A newborn’s hands are a wondrous art form. Children’s handprints are treasured. A conduit of trust is established when toddlers wrap their hand around an adult’s finger. Familiar songs about hands have been instructive: “Hands, hands, hands, Thank you, God, for hands” is a reminder to be thankful. “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!” is an invitation to use hands to express joy. “Tonight I look at my hands and say ‘What little hands have you done today?’ I’ll be so happy to know that they could help my mother (or any other) as well as play,” suggests that hands can be used to help others. In her picture book I Call My Hand Gentle, Amanda Haan, throws out this challenge: “Look at your hand. It can hit, or it can hug. It can break, or it can tickle. You can choose. What will your hand do?” And so the challenge is to guide children to choose to use their hands in constructive ways. Such decision-making is caught as well as taught.
Kathryn Aschliman is a member of College Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana and Coordinator of Mennonite Early Childhood Network affiliated with Mennonite Education Agency.
Response from Pluma Hostetter: “Dear Friends, I appreciate your magazine (Timbrel) and love reading it. You said you want to know how we use our hands, I’ll tell you. I am in a retirement home here in Lititz and I use them a lot helping others who are here and can’t do the things that I can do. I reach up to cupboards or carry things to their basement storage. I also do cross stitching, make baby quilts for each one of my children. I also work in the store here, putting groceries away, work in the thrift store and wash dishes. I was the oldest of 9 siblings growing up and I did a lot of hard work cooking, gardening, milking cows, etc. I was the laundry person growing up and did 2 large lines full of clothes each day (using my hands!). Then at 26 I got married to my husband (deceased) and he had 9 children. I used my hands working on the farm. We had 3 children together and there was lots of hard work! I think this letter is long enough. I was born during the Depression (1930) and I remember my mother sending a dozen eggs to the store to get a loaf of bread. God bless you in your work. You all are a special group of ladies. Sincerely, Pluma Hostetter”
Response from Marianne Harder:
From time to time I visit in the nursing homes in the area. One precious friend is now 98 and can no longer hear. Her memory and energy are also failing. Now visitor comments need to be written. How important touch is to her!
Three years ago, while rethinking our visit, I composed this poem (see below) and sent it to her family. This weekend, her daughter-in-law reminded me of the poem. She has recently arranged pictures around this poem and, as a poster, placed it on her door:
by Marianne Harder, Rosthern, Saskatchewan Canada
— after a visit to the nursing home —
I look upon her aged hands
hands holding happenings
times of grief and joy
taking my hands, her trembling ceases
she holds mine fast as we converse
“I knit,” she points with shaking hands
“They’re gifts. Would you like one?”
beautiful hand-made stitches
again holding hands
“Your hands are warm,” she says
now in my home I recall her touch
and I am warmed