Among my favorites works of art is one by Albrecht Durer. It is a gray and white brush drawing on blue-grounded paper, entitled the “Hands of the Apostle,” generally known as “The Praying Hands.”  It is one of the most reproduced works of art by the German artist. It reminds me that self-effacing persons still put their hands together to speak to their Creator.  I love the hands Durer drew. I believe Durer’s drawing is truly representative of what Labor Day is all about.

Before my eyes were clear I could wrap my tiny hand around my mother’s finger. I knew who she was by the way she touched me. I held my children when they were barely more than a handful. I learned to count on my fingers; I pointed at words in a book before I could say them. My clumsy fingers struggled with shoe laces; my hands pumped air into balloon bicycle tires; I helped my mother scrub clothes on a washboard, then used my hands to wring moisture from clothes before hanging them with my hands on a taut clothesline.

My first clothes were hand-me-downs from older brothers and I learned many things about life, first hand, at the hands of those brothers.

1 wrapped my hands around the handle of white ash baseball bat, then worked them hand over hand on the bat to earn the right to handpick members of a team;  and though the experience is years behind me I can still remember the way red raised laces on a leather baseball felt when I gripped it with my hands.

I folded newspapers with my hands; stacked cans on supermarket shelves with my hands; and wrapped banding wire around red hot steel coils with my hands.

I enjoy the luxury of producing my thoughts on a word processor. Once I wrote  with an electric typewriter. Before that with an old Remington manual. Before that with a No. 2 pencil on yellow, lined paper. Regardless of the method my hands translated my thoughts almost faster than I could think them.

In the morning few pleasures are more rewarding than wrapping my hands around a ceramic cup of hot coffee,  then using them to turn to the pages of the morning newspaper.

I used my hands to slide a gold band on a young woman’s hand, then walked through forty-five years of life holding hands with her until her hand slipped from mine as she slipped away from this world. Now, years later, my heart does handsprings over the love of woman who is hands down the sweetest person I know.

How does all of this relate to Labor Day?  It reminds me that before there was an implement to dig into the earth to plant seeds,  men dug with their hands to find root vegetables. Before there were plows, there were hands. Before there was any kind of machine to make products or to farm the land,  the work was done by hand. In short, before there was capitol there was labor. The two go hand in hand to create the greatest nation the world has ever seen. Both must recognize the value of the other. Let’s put our hands together and pray that they do.



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  1. Jack Lewis says:

    Got me to thinking… I used my hands to shake your hands when you were in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I guess that just may be the best use we can do with our hands is when we see an old friend and shake hands… I look forward to that time…

  2. gin says:

    As an art lover, Durer’s “Praying Hands” is one of my very favorites of the literally millions of artworks out there.

    Here’s an interesting bit of trivia for you . . . yes, it is a drawing but the medium is not graphite, not charcoal, not chalk, not conte-crayon. Durer created this drawing using a medium called silverpoint.

    According to Wikipedia . . . a silverpoint drawing is made by dragging a silver wire across a surface, often prepared with gesso or primer.

    Silver tarnishes. Thus the silverpoint drawings darken with age.

  3. Hi Jerry,
    Good to see you at Safeway today. Really enjoyed your Labor Day article. Our next RIF day is October 4th, Thursday at Crumpton school. We begin at 8:30 a.m. And we are finished by 11:00 a.m. Or sooner. just let me know by email.
    Barbara Sovereign

  4. Lucille Gervase says:

    Good article Jerry. Still your fan across the miles. Your cuz. Lucille

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