Humbled by a Handless Stranger NPR (88.1 WVPE) Radio Commentary with Michiana Chronicles

You can listen to this by clicking HERE.


Yesterday at a church we were visiting I was people watching instead of praying and sizing up the congregation. As we sang songs and started up the worship service I was admiring a young mother with a new baby. The young mom was beautiful and had a cute t-shirt and green skirt on. Her young husband stood happily beside her and I kept looking their way. The newborn baby was hard to see as he was tucked safely in his carrier but I kept looking. From my vantage point he had beautiful pale cocoa colored skin, a lovely mix of the black mother and the white father. I loved this little family and wished I knew them.

As a new mom myself I am particularly fascinated by every baby I can lay my eyes on and I love chatting up the parents. I just kept watching this family until I noticed the woman's arm; there was no hand on it! I was stunned, my stomach hurt for her and my mind raced about all the daily tasks of caring for a baby...how could she possibly manage any of it? I kept staring ardently, searching for a glimpse of her other arm. I was desperate to know there was a beautiful fully functioning hand on the other arm. There was not. Tears filled my eyes and I told my husband I was going for a drink of water as I quickly left my seat.

I went to the ladies room to compose myself and to pray a blessing on the little family. I also spent time reacquainting myself with the abundance of blessings in my life I am already aware of and also those I take for granted. Like having hands. My heart hurts even now for them. The day before I had had what I thought was a bad day--nothing really went my way, the baby is teething so all of us are tired and cranky. I know everything important like food, shelter and clothing is taken care of. I have an excellent husband who loves me well and helps out doing more than his fair share around the house. Even knowing this, it still felt like a bad day and I chose to be in a foul mood through most of it. I tried to pray and ask God for an attitude adjustment but I still sulked through the day.

How do you put on or take off a diaper without fingers, with no hands? How do you put a pacifier in a tiny baby mouth, how do you breastfeed or fix a bottle without hands? I asked a dear friend about the woman and if she knew her. She said they were visiting someone there and that the girl was a Rwandan refugee. She had probably lost her hands as a young child. I realize she is probably used to functioning without hands, but I'm not used to it. I was sick with the thought of how many children and adults this had happened to. I was embarrassed with my lack of deep interest in some world events that do not touch me directly. I was disappointed in the kind of person I had been the day before.

I wanted to go to the young mother, to hug her and tell her...what? "Gosh, I'm glad I'm not you and I sure learned a lesson today?" or "God blessed me with you today, I sure hope I remember this lesson later in my life- or later in the week even when I feel sorry for my spoiled affluent little self?" How could I say that? How could I tell her she was more beautiful to me in the story her body now told? How could I ask all of my questions about caring for a baby without having any hands? How can I stop thinking of how lucky I am to get up in the middle of the night- even twice- to hold my crying baby girl and rock her back to sleep? I cannot.

Instead of stumbling for a way to bless her directly, I will tell this story to you, in the hopes you tell someone else and remember it when you are feeling sorry for yourself about something. Remember this young mother and her precious family and if you can, say a prayer that she has all the hands she needs to live a beautiful life.