Helping Hands

Hand of giant Buddha at Sukhothai, Thailand

The human mind is interesting for soooo many reasons. One is the power of association. Our brains take short cuts so we don’t have to analyze every single situation every single time. So, for example, if you are at your favorite outdoor cafe eating lasagna when a cat throws up on your shoe, you may choose pizza the next time you go to that cafe. And your brain may be making this decision for you even if you don’t know it. Guessing this is why I never returned to my favorite Thai restaurant after I found a giant cockroach in my pad ke mow.

Mural, Rome, Italy

With this in mind, maybe we should consider whether we might be inadvertently scapegoating our hands these days:

Don’t touch your face!

We’re elbow bumping!

Wash your hands constantly!

What? You are out of hand sanitizer!?!?!

Cough into your sleeve!

Be sure to wipe down anything he touched!

Somewhere in our very complicated brains, we may be discrediting one of our most useful and most adored assets. I don’t know whether and how this may affect our emotions and actions in the future, but let’s get out ahead of it. Here are a whole bunch of positive associations with hands that might come in handy someday soon.


Hands may be one of the earliest subjects of human artistry. They are found painted on rock cave walls all over the world. The oldest, recently discovered in Borneo, are more than 40,000 years old. Archaeologists aren’t sure whether they were used as decoration, a signature or as a symbol of spirituality.  For more on that

Here are a few beautiful examples:

Three Rivers, New Mexico, United States

Cave of the Hands, Argentina

Jerigi Selah Cave, Borneo, Indonesia 


Alanis Morissette recorded “Hand in Pocket” 25 years ago and it’s still relevant in its sound and conflicting, ironic message. Because “what it all comes  down to…is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine cuz I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one’s givin a high five.” Or flickin a cigarette or playin a piano or givin a peace sign. Hands have many functions!


People use their hands for a lot of really important messages. For example….



Have a good day…(a Hawaiian greeting called “the Shaka”)

Oh yeah, I know everyone is just swooning to see a photo of the man who made everyone feel like a happy Hawaiian.


This has to be one of the most famous paintings of hands ever. It is a detail from the SIstine Chapel painted by Michaelangelo in Vatican City (which is actually a country). A portrayal of the story in the Bible’s Book of Genesis, we see god tenderly giving life to a being in his own image.


One of the most famous and controversial moments in sports history occurred in 1986, when England and Argentina faced off in the World Cup. The two countries had more than 150 years of animosity related to England’s occupation of the Argentinian islands called the Malvinas, (or, by the British, the Falklands). The 1986 World Cup became the test of national pride for Argentinians and Diego Maradona declared that his winning goals were performed by “The Hand of God.” This is a really good video telling the story. And I don’t care for spectator sports so you know it’s a good story.


There aren’t many songs about hands actually. But this one by Bessie Smith is a classic. Bessie Smith is one of America’s most influential blues and jazz singers with a voice that is “a combination of field holler and Jazz Age sophistication.” 

Bessie Smith was a huge influence on Janis Joplin, a powerful 60s icon who had her own Hand Song, “Raise Your Hand.”


Hands are commonly used everywhere in conversation. Some cultures (Italian) use their hands in conversation more than others (Japan). But those who use their hands the most are those who speak American Sign Language (ASL), which has become widely used  — certainly by the deaf but also increasingly as a second language, a lingua franca.

We teach our children to use their hands to emphasize a plot point….

And we enjoy the use of hand gestures to emphasize more mature plot points…


Don’t forget what your hands love the most….it won’t be long before you will get to touch someone again.
















  1. You’re so creative Kim. I wake up looking forward to your next blog. This one was very special! Thanks!

  2. I love this, Kim, and thank you for the links to songs. This reminded me of backpacking around Latin America in my early 20s, noticing the variety and frequency of hand gestures from country to country. Many hand gestures were used instead of words. Rubbing index finger with thumb, everywhere of course, is money. To emphasize a point or indicate “wow,” Brazilians put a couple fingers with their thumb and shook vigorously which caused a clicking sound. When I returned home and worked as a Spanish language aide at Ventura College, a Cuban priest and I made a video about Latin American hand gestures 🙂

      1. Kim, I wish I had a copy to show you! This was many years ago, when making a video was novel. We had to be filmed under hot, bright lights. It was so much fun gesturing to each other in a little story we made up together in Spanish.

  3. This unfortunate downtime has been very good for you and us as you bring us new ways of experiencing this current reality. Thank you Kimmie! Love you.

  4. Those of us who use our hands frequently in repairing items or constructing know that the touch at the end of our fingers is much like having a pair of eyes when it’s impossible to see the work we are doing. Today my fingers searched the bottom of a mud hole filled with water to find the threaded pipe to attach the sprinkler to. As you so wonderfully pointed out by you, our hands working in endless varieties to tell us who we are.

    1. Hi Billy, Oh wow, yes, I get it. I wish I could write a book about hands (I guess I could….). I didn’t include stories about gloves, shadow puppetry, palmistry, or finger bowls. So many topics!

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