My dad used to say you could tell a whole lot about a person by looking at their hands– where they had been, what they did for a living, what kind of person they were. He claimed he could tell by a handshake what kind of character was in a man. If the man’s hands were smooth and soft, well-manicured with clean, even nails, Dad surmised he knew nothing of hard work or any other kind of labor. Desk job, he concluded – especially if their handshake was weak or “slimy,” he called it. Dad worked hard for a living, usually putting in twelve to fourteen hour days at his gas station in Clark, South Dakota.
My dad’s hands were large and almost square. His knuckles commonly had bruises or cuts. He’d just say “knocked the bark off.” Grease and gasoline stained his rugged hands which labored tirelessly at the gas station he owned fixing other peoples’ cars. Chipped and dirty nails were ordinary fare and no amount of scrubbing could make them clean. Rough and calloused from splitting wood, cracked from working in the dirt – but still gentle, warm, and loving.
I loved the scent of my dad’s hands: oily from fixing a tire, or earthy from working in the field. Sometimes they had the whiff of sawdust and freshly-hewn wood from whittling or building, or the pungent fishy, wormy smell from the fishing he loved. I remember, because to me it meant love. My daddy’s hands held me, hugged me, and applauded me. They were safe hands that opened up in love and acceptance. They guided and encouraged without being pushy and protected without smothering.
My sister agrees. His hands spoke volumes to everyone. She wrote the following poem:
— GIFTS OF LOVE –
by B.J. Woodland Clausen
His hands were wrinkled, calloused, cut
Reminders of many years of work
When asked about an open wound
“Knocked the bark off,” he would reply.
He labored long to do his best
Numerous hours spent his skill to perfect
But he felt his work was second rate
Because it was his very own
He could not know or understand
How treasured his homemade gifts became
How fondled, dusted, and locked away
His gifts have become today.
Our dad’s hands were examples of my Heavenly Father’s hands. Jesus was a carpenter and fisherman, too. His hands were kind and gentle, yet rough from work. Gentle enough to hold a small child and beckon the little ones to come to Him, yet bold enough to take a whip and drive everyone from the temple. They were also strong enough to bear a nail from which all his weight hung. He gave us a gift too.
You can tell a lot by a person’s hands.