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Hands That Work

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Today we are going to think about hands that do things for us. It is easy to think of things your mother’s hands did for you when you were a tiny baby. How many can you think of? Do her hands still do things for you now? What are they?

What things does your father do with his hands? At work and at home everyone uses his hands very often. See how many things you can think of that are done by the hands of the fathers of your class.

What about your teacher? Does he or she have to do things with his hands in order to help you learn? What are the things that your teacher does?

Some hands are more skillful than others; that means that they can do things that require a finer eye‑hand coordination. How many things can you name that people do with their hands? Who has the most skillful hands?

Before you decide on a final answer to the last question, let’s be sure you have thought of many different skills. Did you think of your dentist who, besides having to learn to recognize teeth that need help, had to learn to use all his fine, fast‑moving tools? Did you think of the doctor? He has to learn all about the body, but he also has to learn how to snip out tonsils just right. He has to learn to make an incision (a cut) at just the right place if he needs to take out your appendix and how to sew everything up again just right.

Whether your mother makes your clothes, or you buy them all ready made at the store, what about the hands that cut and sewed and did all the things that have to be done to make a suit, a dress, a hat or a coat? Did you think of the men who use their hands to make cement for sidewalks? Did you include the carpenters who built your home? Did you remember the men in factories who make the crackers and bread you buy or the furniture you use? Did you think of the farmer who uses his hands (or uses his hands and the tools that make them stronger and make it possible for him to reach further) to plow, to milk, to harvest?

Even with all of the machines we have, so much of the work of our world is done with hands. A machine needs very skillful hands to handle it, whether it is a milking machine, an airplane, a cement mixer, or one of the giant machines as big as a room that work mathematical problems. The astronomer who studies the skies has to make very tine adjustments with his hands to bring the stars into focus so he can see them clearly.

Sometimes we talk about people who work with their hands, and people who work with their minds. Some people are more proud of the great skill of their hands, others of the skill of their minds. But those who think they are working with their minds have to use their hands to do it; and those who think they are working with their hands wouldn’t have their skill if the mind were not cooperating with the hands. No one works with his hands alone or with his mind alone.

And then there are all those people who have very big ideas that they want to share with other people. These are the people we call artists. They have to use their hands to tell us what their minds are thinking. Some of them write their thoughts out with their hands; some of them paint their thoughts; or they use chisels and bring their thoughts out of wood and marble. Some of them have worked for many years to control their hands so they can make music for us.

So when we go back to our question — which hands are the most skillful? — it is really a very big question that we have asked. Most skillful at doing what? Which of these things are needed the most? Are things that give us pleasure as important as things we must have?

Hands and the things that are done with them are a very important part of our lives. Sometimes we are so used to having these things that we do not think about them. Try to see how often you can notice the things that other hands do for you.

Things to Do

  1. 1 . Go through the pictures you have brought from home and make a poster of “Things Hands Do for Us.” Again, if you do not have the right pictures, make your own.
  2. Sit quietly for a little while and think. See if you can think of something that you would like to share with others something done with your hands. Then write your thoughts, or make a drawing or painting of your thoughts. Can other people understand what you thought now that your hands have put the idea down on paper?
  3. Make a list of all the special skills your hands have. Make one big list for the class and see how many you can get on the list. Each person has his own special skills; you will be surprised at all the different things people in your class can do with their hands.

Things to Do at Home

  1. Watch all week for things that hands do for you. How many are there that no one thought of? Keep a list of the new ones.
  2. Watch this week for pictures for posters, “Hands Doing Things,” “Things Hands Do for Me,” or “Things My Hands Can Do.” You will be surprised how many more you find now that you have been thinking about hands and what they can do.
  3. Watch your father’s hands and your mother’s hands. See how many things you can list which their hands can do that your hands haven’t learned yet. Are you old enough to learn more of them now?
  4. Find some younger child in the neighborhood where you live, and see if you can teach him something new to do with his hands. Perhaps to play marbles or jacks. Or perhaps you can teach him something that you have learned to do, such as tying knots or sewing or knitting (if you are a girl).