Harvard Square Library exists solely on the basis of donations. If you have benefitted from any of our materials, and/or if making Unitarian Universalist intellectual heritage materials widely available and free is a value to you, please donate whatever you can--every little bit helps: Donate
Have you ever thought about what is inside your hand? Let’s start by thinking about the bones in the human hand. In your body, you have 206 bones and of these more than 50 are in your hands. Think how small the hand ‘is in comparison with the rest of the body and yet it contains almost one‑quarter of the body’s bones!
Look at the picture of the bones of the hand, and then feel your own hand carefully. Can you feel some of these bones? Bend your fingers and you can see that there are three small bones in each finger. Feel each of these bones. Feel the palm of your hand — can you find the long bones that run through it? Now feel your wrist — it is harder to find all the bones here, but you can find many of them.
But bones alone wouldn’t be enough for your hands to do their work. There are also muscles that extend from one bone to another. Each muscle can contract (which makes it shorten. As it contracts, one of the bones to which it is attached will move. When the muscle relaxes, the bone will return to its original position. Double up on your elbow and feel the muscle in your upper arm. Now bend one of your fingers; the muscle isn’t as large but you can feel it. Each hand has twenty-eight muscles (fifty-six for your two hands), while each elbow has only two. Do you begin to understand why you can do so much with your hands?
Besides bones and muscles the hand also has tendons. Sometimes muscles are not attached directly to the bone, but are attached to a nonstretchable cord, which in turn is attached to the bone. This cord is called a tendon. When a muscle is attached to a tendon, the tendon transmits (carries) the force of the muscle, to the bone.
More than fifty bones, and more than fifty muscles — no wonder Your two hands can do so many things! You can bend your fingers, straighten your fingers, use your fingers to hold things (a pencil for writing, a cup for drinking, tools for work), or you can use them to play the piano or other musical instruments. How many other things can you name that you can do with your fingers?
However, your fingers do not have as much flexibility as other parts of the hand. The thumb is attached so that it rotates into various positions, and the many bones of the wrist make it possible to move it in many different ways.
But muscles and bones and tendons alone could not do anything if there were not something else in the hand. There are also nerves. Nerves carry stimuli to the brain, and messages back from the brain, so that you can “tell” your hands what to do. Some things you have done with your hands so many times that you are not aware of thinking how to do them, but when you are learning something new you often have to keep reminding yourself of the way in which it is done.
What a wonderful machine the hand is with all its bones, joints, muscles, tendons and nerves! No wonder our hands can become so skillful. It would have taken a very wise man a great many years to “invent a hand,” if there hadn’t been one. We would think it a wonderful invention if someone suddenly started advertising that something new called a hand was now available. (Do you think you could pretend that the hand had just been “invented,” and write an advertisement about it and all the things it can do?)
One of the ways we can remind ourselves of how wonderful it is to have hands is to teach them new things to do. Another way is by noticing things that other hands do for us. We can also spend time thinking of things our hands can do for other people. What can your hands do for the baby’? Can you do things with your hands for your dog, or cat or other pets? What can your hands do to make the friends you play with happier? Can our hands help your teacher? What can you do with your hands for your grandparents, even if they do not live near you?
Things to Do
- Make a poster of “Things My Hands Can Do.” Look at the posters you have made and talk about them. Can you make pictures of things that you didn’t have pictures for?
- Your teacher will help you think of something that you can do with your hands today for someone else. Perhaps you will think of other things.
Things to Do at Home
- Keep a record at home this week of the things our hands have done for other people. Sometimes the things our hands do are not helpful, and we are sorry afterwards that our mind didn’t stop our hands sooner. Keep a list of these things, too.
- See if for one week you can think of something that your hands can do every day for each person who lives with you. Tell them your hands are going to “surprise” them every day by doing something. You may be the one who is surprised because you do so many things with your hands for other people without realizing it that they may think they have had their “hand surprise” even before you get around to doing what you had planned to do.