We’ve forgotten how to use our hands

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My father’s hands were always calloused – filthy from the day’s work. His meal ticket wasn’t a college degree but back-breaking labor. In all of my life, I have never seen anyone work harder.

Which is why he readily accepts projects during visits to our home. This past December he removed rotten wood and adhesive from our front steps and completely replaced our laundry room flooring. In the process, he ruined a well-used long-sleeved T-shirt with Virginia Tech, my alma mater, written across it.

My father’s four-year plan ended prematurely, and he didn’t finish college.

I contemplate his talents often, and I wish I had paid more attention. He can run wire, resolve plumbing issues, and crawl under an old house with an air of youth.

Recently, my husband and I have taken on projects of our own – all those little updates left undone when we purchased our first home. I was eight months pregnant. It was also July in the Deep South.

Our oldest is now three-and-a-half. It was time.

In the last month, we repainted three rooms, stripped wallpaper, and spackled countless holes. And – somewhere in the fatigue – I found a surprising peace.

I think we’ve all forgotten how to use our hands.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful that my life’s work extends beyond paintbrush strokes (I commercially painted for two summers – never again). But there was something cathartic about creating with my hands. In the silent hours of night – while those who are sane were asleep – I used every muscle to improve our home.

And I wore my father’s stained T-shirt.

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::today’s daily inspiration::

6 thoughts on “We’ve forgotten how to use our hands

  1. I’m so moved hearing how the experiencing of creating a space to welcome a new life … connected you with what you valued learning as a child. It occurs to me that there are so many ways we can see hard work – gruelling … or life-enriching. Both experiences are true. It depends on the meaning to each of us in that moment. However yours has helped me to remember how precious it is to carry another life within us and then to nurture and create space for that life as it emerges. I’m also remembering how much I loved to wake during the night and feel the unknown new person moving around inside. I had this sense of the temporiness of all experience, and felt inspired to savour it. It helped me to not worry so much about ‘not sleeping’ … I often felt deeply relaxed and connected instead. Even now, as I think of it, I’m stirred with joyful tears and tender appreciation of who that little life has become many years later. Thank you for sharing your experience. It really helped me connect with what matters to me right now … and hopefully to us in the world. I can think of no more important job that growing and nurturing young …

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  2. Brian Tackman

    Lauren, another wonderful post. All of my life I have worked within the construction field, I have degrees in both Architecture and Civil Engineering from college. I work on a daily basis in construction engineering for the WV Division of Highways, overseeing contractor’s working to build/rebuild roads and bridges. I work long hours (lots of times daylight to dark – 12 hours + some days). Watching the laborers/iron workers/welders/carpenters/surveyors and among others perform their daily tasks is amazing.

    Although I try to build and perform skilled labor (home repair work/remodeling etc.), I have never been gifted with the talents of most of the men I watch work (and it sounds like your Father as well). I do try my best though to perform these tasks, sometimes with successful results and sometimes not so much. I think one of the most important things to note is that hard work will always get you ahead in life. I may also be worth noting that the current generation of adolescents could take a lesson from such hard work from dedicated men. There seems to be less and less desire for skilled labor on a daily basis that I have seen over my years.

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    1. I think you really nail it here – the system makes the whole, the different pieces (all essential) are required to complete the big tasks. God uses us where we are. Your leadership and oversight is essential – just as those who “labor” differently. I think the key is to never remove yourself too far from the hard, dirty, and often thankless jobs. Using our hands seems to offer a good reminder (at least for me). Keep doing amazing work in all you do!

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  3. You know what? At first, I dread those large projects (I just put up a closet and new blinds), but when I see the work of my hands completed, there is a very, very deep satisfaction. The sore muscles are a nice reminder of the hard work of making.

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