Give Her a Hand

The last week has been difficult for Nancy. A week ago Sunday she got a severe burn on her right hand while doing some canning.  It was hard enough for her to stop the canning process (by turning it over to me) and to sit with her hand in ice water while I finished up before going to the urgent care center.  Halting that canning process first to go get her hand treated was not in the realm of possibility.

There was also a sense of her denial that the burn was really that bad – despite having been scalded by boiling water. And even at the urgent care center it came as a surprise to her that it was considered a bad burn and would restrict her ability to drive, to do any of her favorite hand crafts, slow her typing to a crawl and make dressing without help quite impossible.

So it has been an interesting ten days which have, at times, been quite frustrating for Nancy and yet informative for us both. She was irked those first days that she could not get dressed by herself. We had to re-plan our week to allow time for me to drive her to meet her friend from Hong Kong who was graduating from the program at Notre Dame in South Bend. Nancy began to worry about long term injury to her hand and then to be relieved as the healing progressed. Several times in the first few days when I asked how I could help she would reply “Give me a new hand that doesn’t hurt.”

But most obvious to me is that we take for granted being two fully functioning people. (At the same time I was wearing a wedge boot to allow my foot some healing time after getting a blister on the ball of my foot at General Convention.) With her inured hand and my foot  we joked that between us we had one set of fully functional limbs and some spare parts.

I recalled mid-week a chaplain friend of mine who said that we humans manage to deceive ourselves that we are independent. She reminded us to look at how long, and at the many ways we depend on others – in infancy, during injury, in our elder years or as our abilities diminish and disappear. We are really NOT independent but we try to pretend we are. We are fully able-bodied for only a portion of our life.

In truth at our best we are inter-dependent. We began, and throughout the span of our life become, dependent on others for many things. Rather than deny this we need to develop an awareness of this reality and a graciousness about receiving help and assistance. (Truth compels me to say that Nancy is more gracious in receiving than I am. I’m still working on that one.)

We need to ban from our mental construct that we are independent. For in reality we never are and have never been. We depend on creation for air, water, nourishment. We depend on God and one another for love, affirmation and acceptance. And we depend on others for various sized bits of help for all of our life. Learning how to be graciously inter-dependent is the true task before us.



PS Nancy’s bandage is smaller, her hand hurts less and is more able to let her do things. Her healing continues. And we will be buying protective gloves for future canning projects


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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