Friday, April 17, 2009

Consider your hands

Five years ago, at the Centre for Christian Spirituality, I made the acquaintance of a delightful nun, Sister Winifred O’Brien. She was one of The Little Sisters of the Assumption, and a team member at the Centre. As I recall, she worked as a caregiver for the carers of those ill with HIV and AIDS, which might account for the theme of her meditation one morning. She spoke movingly about the role hands play in people’s lives - their own and those of others - and then asked that we hold one another’s hands and lovingly explore them, touching and stroking every ridge, every callous, every knuckle thickened by age or arthritis. She encouraged us to put ourselves, in a manner of speaking, into someone else’s hands….

Our hands are programmed to do almost anything. They can comfort and nurture, create and clean and cook. They can sew and knit and write and hold and hug. They can be folded in prayer or cupped for a blessing. They can make a cross on the body - or on a ballot paper. But hands can also resist being held, they can hurt and hit or make an angry fist. They can withdraw coldly from this world of politics, poverty and pain.

I was reminded of Sister Win’s meditation when I heard Barack Obama’s summary of America’s new foreign policy: We will extend the hand of friendship to every nation which does not hold out a clenched fist…

How we use our hands, these miraculous, intricate, God-given objects, is our own choice. Their function is governed by our hearts and our minds, making them instruments of love or of discord. As always, on the eve of an election, it is fitting that we keep that in mind.

Cecile Cilliers

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