Healing Hands The Power of Touch

November 01, 2005 | Danny Parada

I had never really thought about the importance of my hands until recently. At Tillamook County General Hospital, where I work as a chaplain, each year we honor our nursing staff and ask God to bless their hands in conjunction with National Nurses Week.

As I thought about those who would participate in our Blessing of the Hands ceremony, I wondered what I could say that would make a lasting impact on their lives. What I didn’t realize was that the story I shared would change my way of thinking about my own hands.

About 20 years ago in Los Angeles, Calif., I met a young man, Juan,* who hailed from my homeland of El Salvador. I noticed immediately that he didn’t have any hands. One day he shared his incredible story with me.

As Juan was headed to church with a cousin, four men—one of them his uncle—ambushed them and demanded that the two young men join the country’s rebel cause or die. Juan’s cousin attempted to run away and was killed on the spot. Juan fell at his uncle’s feet and begged for his life, but the other men kept yelling at his uncle to kill Juan.

“I saw the machete coming down toward my head,” Juan recalled. “I lifted up my hands to cover my head and immediately felt something warm running down my body. I realized it was blood from my severed limbs.”

When Juan’s uncle saw that he had missed Juan’s head and cut off both his hands, he panicked. As Juan lay on the ground crying, his uncle and the other men ran away.

Through Juan, God led me to seriously think about my own hands and what a blessing they are to me! How important are your hands to you? So many times we use them without thinking, taking them for granted. We forget that our hands are a gift from our Creator, and what we do with them affects our lives and those of others.

Everyday our hospital, hospice and home-care nursing staff members impact patients’ lives. Their healing touch—along with that of our physicians, chaplains and other staff members—is a blessing to our patients as reflected by the comments we receive. I hear things like: “I love the nurses at this hospital, they are so wonderful,” and “I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your hospice and home-care nurses.”

As a chaplain, I have the privilege of talking with a lot of patients and their families, both in our hospital and out in the community. During these encounters, I shake hands, I offer a reassuring touch, or I hold hands. I have found that a simple touch can be very healing. Our hands may not heal every physical illness, but our hands are making a big difference in the lives that we touch.

Today, thank God for your hands and what they can do, for they are a blessing.

* Juan is a pseudonym