I heard this wonderful story the other day. A young father talking with his son during a recording for Story Corps.
The whole story was one of love and hope, with a bit of reality included. One part that was very beautiful was the father sharing a proverb:
“My dream is for you to live out your dreams,” Albert told him.
“There’s an old proverb that talks about when children are born,
children come out with their fists closed because that’s where they keep all their gifts.
And as you grow, your hands learn to unfold,
because you’re learning to release your gifts to the world.
“And so, for the rest of your life,
I wanna see you live with your hands unfolded.’
I love the thought that we are born with gifts. Each and every one of us. We are born with something to give. And as the father so sweetly says to his son, “I wanna see you live with your hands unfolded.” Such a profoundly beautiful wish for a parent to give to their child.
GIVE your gifts away. With open hands. Unclench, unfold your fists and give.
Author Mitch Albom has a slightly different take on the clenched fists. Equally as thought provoking. We are born wanting to grab everything. We believe the whole world is ours. Only near death, or with death, do we understand the true lesson….we can take nothing with us when we die.
“When a baby comes into the world, its hands are clenched, right?
Like this?” He made a fist. “Why?
Because a baby not knowing any better, wants to grab everything,
to say the whole world is mine.
But when an old person dies, how does he do so? With his hands open.
Why? Because he has learned his lesson.”
“What lesson?” I asked.
He stretched open his empty fingers. “We can take nothing with us.”
― Mitch Albom, Have a Little Faith: a True Story
Personally I would rather work on unclenching my fists now to release my gifts to the world and others . While I don’t always have a clear picture of what my gifts are…sometimes I am not sure I have much really to offer, I try to be a kind person, a compassionate person. I’d like to think that in offering kindness and compassion to others that I somehow give them something of meaning.
Lloyd Alexander offers,
“We hold each other’s lives in our open hands, not in clenched fists.”
We can’t physically hold anything in a clenched fist. Not a child or loved one, a flower or even food or glass of water. We are unable to receive with a clenched fist. Spiritually and emotionally we can’t hold the gift of love, or joy, or healing, or comfort or compassion with a clenched fist in our heart and mind. We are connected each one of us, to the other. We do hold the lives of others in our hands.
Elie Wiesel reminds us,
“Life is not a fist.
Life is an open hand
waiting for some other hand
To enter it.”
Our hands are made beautifully for holding another hand. For sharing ourselves, life, love, joy and pain with another. We cannot do that with a clenched fist. Our hand has to be open to receive. To give. To do both.
There is so much pain and suffering in the world. (Yes, I know, there is good too.) Perhaps we should all look at our own hands and think on these things. Are we gripping tightly to what is “ours”? Will we only be able to open our hands at the time of death because of the realization we cannot “take it with us.”?
Or do we learn to perhaps slowly, unfold our fists to open our hands in order to share our gifts with others? One seems lonely and sad. One seems softer and full of hope and promise.
Unfolding our hands, opening them to the gesture of giving and receiving these gifts is a choice. We can “protect”, “preserve”, “save”, “conserve” our gifts, only to discover that at the end of our life they have little meaning because we cannot take them with us. Or, we can bring increase and partnership to each other and be supported and uplifted by the offering and acceptance of each other’s gifts.
I feel I already have unfolded my fists and opened my hands to others in my life. It is an act of trust and love and hope. I offer unconditional love, acceptance, tolerance, support and compassion. I receive their gifts with humility and constant presence and awareness, trying never to take for granted what they extend to me…a part of themselves.
I will continue to keep my hands open and unfolded to release whatever love, empathy, compassion, and support to and for others that I can. Perhaps along the way I will also be offered the hand of another to join me on this journey of unfolding and sharing, of offering and receiving.