Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a
family with eighteen children. Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the
table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by
profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying
chore he could find in the neighborhood. Despite their seemingly hopeless
condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder's children had a dream. They both
wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father
would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at
After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys
finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into
the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended
the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in
four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales
of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines. They tossed a
coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer (Junior) won the toss and
went off to Nuremberg.
Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years,
financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate
sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than
those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning
to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.
When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a
festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht's triumphant homecoming.
After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht
rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his
beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill
his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine,
now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I
will take care of you."
All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where
Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from
side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, "No ...no...no...no."
Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down
the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his
right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too
late for me. Look ... look what four years in the mines have done to my hands!
The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have
been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold
a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or
canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother ... for me it is too late."
More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer's hundreds of
masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals,
woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the
odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of
Albrecht Durer's works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well
may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.
One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht
Durer painstakingly drew his brother's abused hands with palms together and thin
fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," but
the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece
and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."
The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look.
Let it be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one --no one-- ever
makes it alone!
An Old Man's Wisdom
An old man, 90 plus years old, sat feebly on the park bench. He did not move, just sat there with his head down, staring at his hands.
Another man sat down beside him but the first man did not acknowledge his presence, and the longer he sat the more he wondered if the old man was okay.
He finally said to the old man, “ I do not mean to disturb you but the way you are just sitting there staring at your hands, I wanted to make sure you were alright.”
The old man raised his head and looked at him and smiled. “Yes, I’m fine, thank you for asking,” he said in a clear strong voice.
The old man then asked the second, “Have you ever looked at your hands? I mean really looked at them…”
At that the other slowly opened his hands and stared down at them, turned them over, palms up and down. “No,” he said, “I have never really looked at my hands…” he replied as he tried to figure out the point the was making.
The old man smiled and related this story:
Stop and think about the hands you have, and how they have served you well throughout your years. My hands, though wrinkled, shriveled and weak, have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life. They braced and caught my falls when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They dried the tears of my children and caressed the love of my life… They held my rifle and wiped my tears when I went off to war. They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bloody. They were uneasy and clumsy when I held my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special. They wrote letters home and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse and walked my daughter down the aisle.
Yet, they were strong and sure when I dug my buddy out of a foxhole and lifted a plow off my best friend’s foot. They have held children, consoled neighbors; and shook in fists of anger when I did not understand. They have covered my face, combed my hair and washed and cleansed the rest of my body.
They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day, when not much of anything else of me works real well, these hands hold me up, lay me down and continue to fold in prayer. These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of my life. But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when He leads me home.. And He won’t care about where these hands have been or what they have done. What He will care about is to whom these hands belong and how much He loves these hands. And with these hands He will life me to His side and then I will use these hands to touch the face of God.
Isn’t this story touching and beautiful. Now I entreat all of you who are reading this to stop, pause and look at your hands, and at the things they have done for you during your life. If you are a young person, look at your hands and think about all the wonderful things that your hands will do in the future.
Fold your hands in prayer and take a moment to thank God for your hands and for everything that He has done with your hands and will do with your hands. God bless our hands!
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