By Alex Cohen

I have often been drawn to art that portrays the use of hands, which is how I found Lorenzo Quinn’s work at Harrods in London. I used to visit the Halcyon Gallery that represents Lorenzo just to marvel at the use of hands in much of his art. After years of visiting the gallery, I decided to hire Lorenzo to create a piece for my husband’s 60th birthday. Our relationship started with a request for a birthday gift but then turned into a friendship as we created the symbol that represents our family foundation. Sitting proudly in front of our building is a 10-foot tall sculpture of my hand and Steven’s hand holding a giant heart, the GIVE Heart. 

Hands have influenced how I see the world from the moment I was born. Hands that pulled me from my mother’s body to the hands that passed me to her and placed me in the arms of my father. I don’t personally remember these moments, but I have experienced them with my own children. 

My son was born very prematurely, and I remember hands whisking him away to an incubator, not having time to hold him immediately after his birth.  Once he was stable, I was able to go to the NICU and visit him. I reached into the small opening in his incubator and the first thing I did was touch his hand. He wrapped his little hand around my finger, and I knew that was his way of saying he would be OK. And it was my way of telling him that I would always be there for him.

Growing up, I felt safe when my parents held my hand while crossing the street; I felt it was their way of saying that they would protect me from harm. They held me when I was scared, they touched my hand when I was nervous to calm me, they cooked for me, they served my meals and they clapped for me when they were proud – all using their hands. 

I remember when I was young and took a good hard look at my grandmother’s hands, I would see so many veins and lines that her hands looked like a worn map of the world with all its streets and roads. She spent a lot of time in the sun, so her age spots were as dark as there were many. Her hands looked as busy as her life was. I would watch as she concocted herbal remedies in her kitchen for neighbors who came to her for help; it was the first time I was introduced to homeopathic and holistic medicine. She would place her hands on my head and always bless me when I walked into the house and when I left. It comforted me. 

Holding my children was such a pleasure when they were small, walking hand and hand wherever we went was a joy. Then they grew up and were too old to hold my hand, and that was a sad time for me.  But now I derive joy from the hugs they allow me to give them every now and then.  

In some religions, hands are used to pray, to baptize, to rejoice, to pass the Eucharist, and to make the sign of the cross. Some traditions call for a bride and groom’s hands to be bound together in ribbon to show the sanctity of their union. The laying of the hands to heal is also incredibly powerful; people travel all over the world to find these healers. When my Lyme was at its worst, I sought a healer and I could feel the heat coming from his hands even though they just hovered over me, never touching me. It could have been a placebo effect, but it didn’t matter because I left there feeling much better than when I came in.

When we meet someone for the first time, we shake their hands, as a form of showing respect and equality but we also shake for good sportsmanship, closing a deal, and making peace. A handshake used to be enough to give someone your word. Saying “let’s shake on it” meant you were legally bound, but that has changed over time. Now it’s become more of a gesture than a bond for many. 

Palmistry is a science; people claim to foretell the future through palm reading. They believe that just by looking at your hand they can tell you about your love life, your health, how long you will live, and so many other things as well. Palm reading goes back a very long time, even though it is seen as novelty now and is done by so many novices who have not really studied the science. But you can see how the hands can be a map to your past, present, and future life.

For the deaf, sign language is their main form of communication. They not only use their hands to communicate but to show expression and find direction.  Today, we all use our hands more than ever. I am using them right now to type this blog. Later, I will be typing on my phone to communicate with others, by text and email, as will millions of other people. Latinos (like myself) and some of my Italian friends gesture with their hands when they speak even if they are on the phone and no one can see them. It’s so funny to see me in the car with my ear pods on gesturing with my hands as if I am in the same room with the person on the other end. I wonder what other people passing me think.

A surgeon uses his hands to operate on his patients, basically holding their future in his hands, milling about our insides and removing what needs to be removed and or fixing what’s broken. His hands are his tools.

A conductor helps the musicians to play together, so they have the right balance and clarity, his baton moving slowly during softer sounds and more wildly during the stronger notes to encourage the same feeling from everyone. It’s mesmerizing to see how his hands move to direct the music.

Artists use their hands to create masterpieces, farmers to cultivate their land, potters and florists to create beautiful things, electricians to give us power, chefs to wow us with their imagination on a plate. 

The list goes on: We pet our dogs, we wipe our tears, we lay blankets on our loved ones, we take pictures, we feed our children, we write thank-you notes and love letters, we pick flowers, we shield our eyes from the sun, we play catch, we cover our eyes when we are scared, we place our hands on our heart when we hear the national anthem, we clap when we are proud and we sob into our hands when were are devastated…. I can go on and on, but you see my point.

To me, the sexiest part of my husband is the hand he wears his wedding band on; it shows his commitment, and that his love and loyalty remain true. While that ring is just a symbol, every time I see it on his hand, it warms my heart and makes me feel happy and safe. When he holds my face in his hands and kisses me, I still melt even today.

Not everyone uses their hands for good. Some use their hands to hurt others, by violence and even by gestures. Our hands are very vital appendages and we only realize how important they really are when we injure them and cannot use them. We need to respect their power and appreciate all they do and represent for us. Use them wisely and only for good. 

Give someone a HAND, anyway you can!