If you were to ask me if I’m right or left-handed, I’ll tell you that I’m both. Not that I’m ambidextrous and have the equal use of both hands, but simply because both of my hands equally share the work.
- I deal cards with my left hand,
- and I open doors with my right.
- I hold Saint’s harness handle with my left hand,
- but I use my white cane in my right.
- I read Braille with my left hand,
- yet I write print with my right hand.
But that being said, I’ve always had a special affection for my left hand. It has many jobs, very important jobs; it holds Saint’s harness handle, it reads books, it bears half my ability to write, it wears my engagement ring, and it explores the world around me.
But as with anything that we hold near and dear, it’s far too easy to take it for granted. So please allow me a moment to issue a public apology to my left hand.
To my left hand:
I’m sorry that I’ve taken you for granted. You do so much for me, and I don’t know if I’ve ever thanked you properly. I’ll do better, I promise.
You can only do better once you know better. That doesn’t make it easy to do, but it does mean that it’s doable. Two weeks ago, I was confronted with this lesson, and even now, as things are returning to normal, I’m working to keep this lesson front and center.
Let me tell you the story:
Two weeks ago, life was running along smoothly—eating, sleeping, pooping, biting hangnails—all was well. But when I awoke the next morning with the fourth finger on my left hand puffy and swollen and virtually useless, all was not well.
I went to work, attempting to sub in my pinkie finger for my ring finger’s responsibilities, but it was slow-going. And by the end of the second day, it was getting worse, and I was worried. I’d had thousands of hangnails, but none had lasted this long nor been this painful.
I felt a little silly walking into the emergency room because of a hangnail during a global pandemic, particularly with the girl behind me in tears. But I didn’t want to take any chances; if left untreated, it can become a serious condition.
So there I sat, with my swollen finger in the ER waiting room. And then in a chair with the numbing cream on my finger. And then in another chair when the doctor stabbed a scalpel into the abscess. And then I sat some more, trying to hold back tears, waiting for the infection to drain. [Apologies to my visually-oriented readers].
And for the next three days, my finger was wrapped up in what I called “finger pantyhose.” I was sent home with antibiotics, a bottle of saline, extra bandages, and two more pairs of pantyhose. My finger was incapable of performing its fingerly duties. I couldn’t type. I had to talk my fiancé through washing my hair in the sink because I couldn’t wet my hand in the shower. Anytime I went to use my left hand as normal, I was sharply reminded that I couldn’t.
It amazed me that something as small as a hangnail could cause a disruption of this magnitude. One little nail, one little nibble, and my finger was out of commission for days. And as I’ve watched my finger heal and return to a semblance of normal, I’ve had a pit of guilt sitting heavy at the bottom of my stomach.
It’s easy to take things like physical and mental health for granted; if you don’t know what it’s like to lose an ability, you can’t fully appreciate how it feels to have it in the first place.
Being sighted until I was six, I know what I’m missing out on as a blind woman. Sunsets, the sea, snow-capped mountains, the faces of my loved ones, and as content as I am with my life, I know there are beautiful things I cannot experience with the same fullness.
And I wonder if people with sight ever think about this, when they’re driving to work, glance out the window and catch a glimpse of the sun glistening off the mountain peak. Do they even notice it when they see it day in and day out?
But aren’t I doing the same thing?
Aren’t I, even after temporarily losing the use of my left ring finger, already returning to “normal” and forgetting how it felt to be without it? Am I forgetting how lost I felt, unable to write and use my left hand as I’d always done without a second thought?
I don’t expect anyone to feel the same way about their left hand as I do about mine. Even other blind and visually impaired people may not hold this deep of affection for this appendage. But there’s the rub: it’s more than a hand to me.
It’s my freedom.
My left hand is a symbol of my independence and freedom. In a world that is speedily losing its freedoms, even in countries which pride themselves on promoting it, my left hand has been my flag. It reads braille and allows me to learn, grow and explore; it holds the harness handle of a dog who helps me feel safe and independent; it wears the ring given to me by my beloved because he saw me for me—disability and all—and said “I love her.”
It’s a reminder, every time I reach for a door, open my Bible or go for a walk with Saint to be thankful. Because even something seemingly small can have a big impact, and I don’t want to live my life taking the small stuff for granted.
Because what my left hand has done for me isn’t small. It’s everything. It’s who I am, who I’m actively becoming, and a part of who God created me to be. And I don’t want to take a gift that God has given me for granted.
Tell me, what experiences have you had that have taught you this lesson? Let me know in the comments.