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  Tuesday January 27th, 2015    

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Hand over hand (10/17/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Seeming like another lifetime, images of lithe, flitting shadows around a campfire, where toasted marshmallows and lighthearted conversation were shared, bring to mind our children, giddy with the adventure of sleeping under the stars and nature's raw discoveries.

Busy hands, on summer weekends, Pat and I loaded a pop-out camper and three rambunctious children (and others) to head for Money Creek Haven, joining family friends for a rollicking good time, up on "Shenanigan Heights."

The hands of time prevail. I note the dismal pile of ashes and partially burned logs, choking in this new day's flood of sunshine. Only a few hours earlier, an embracing, frolicking glow, penetrating like a group hug, illuminated cordial faces of fellow camping friends (no children's giggles, in fact no one younger than fifty).

"Hands across the water. Hands across the sea." How much kindling would it take to draw-out the entire human race, to form an expandable circle around a bonfire, if every person would reach out their hands in welcome, and move over, making room for one more? Can you feel the heat?

Often naked, twisted tree trunks abide in deserted country cemeteries, genuflecting in respect to those in repose. Do ghostly bones reach to rotted wood for dismissal? Since heaven called its own, there's no life to be found here, amid mossy, lopsided markers...except that which might leave a shadow on its way through.

You're not supposed to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. No problem! I have trouble paying attention anyway. You've been entrusted to act like a sensible adult, to use your ingenuity and nurturing ability to be the best that you can be. "Can I give you a hand?" you ask yourself, doubling over with uncontrollable laughter.

Peering at my hands in sunlight, shiny flesh slips loosely, in a netlike sheath, covering the life-blood of grayish veins. Do you remember, as a child, a time when you placed your hand in your mother's dwarfing palm, how very far from adulthood it seemed? Then you became the mommy, and your children, hand over hand, looked up to you...and you felt strong, capable, blessed.

I've gotta hand it to dedicated parents of today's unsettling world, those who have the foresight to care for their children with the old standby, "tough love." A hand-in-hand heart warmer put a quick smile on my frowning face one recent workday noon. As I waited at an intersection, I couldn't help noticing a young couple and their adorable, blonde toddler, new on her feet, headed for a restaurant.

The little one decided to wander down the street a ways. Daddy, a fluffy, white bunny rabbit dangling from one hand, seemingly watching her in awe...as a miracle. Adoringly he reached out to place her tiny hand in his gentle grip, guiding her back.

Reflecting, I question now what it was that had turned my sour mood into a cheery grin, softening my demeanor. You know, I've caught sight of too many parental acts of cruelty, neglect, and arm jerking. The doting father and his trusting child renewed in me the powerful influence of kindness.

Loving parents, give yourselves a hand!!! Moms and dads need to bend with a shifting wind, while rearing their offspring: a time to cuddle, a time to discipline, a time to instruct, a time to praise, a time to laugh, a time to let go, and to convey love in all things, at all times...never an iron fist or a harsh put-down. It can be a handful!

Hand-over-hand, life's climb tapers off, one unexpected day, at a summit, sky's stars and moon closer, excess baggage fallen away, inner peace blossoming like spring's first bloom, and a chorus of angels resounding closer to home.

Hands frequently folded in prayer aren't as apt to get into mischief. The important things are not handed over on a silver platter...they must be realized. 


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