I am a first-grade teacher and a first-grader taught me a lesson last week.
The assignment I gave to my young students was to draw a picture of something they were thankful for.
Many of the kids drew pictures of their family, their pets, or a favorite toy. One little boy drew a picture of a pizza – that got a big laugh from his classmates.
But Anthony drew a different kind of picture. It was a hand. Just one hand, five slender fingers with a wedding band.
When Anthony showed his picture to the class, twenty-four little reactions plus one big one – me, gave a collective pause.
Let me tell you about Anthony. He is a special child. He’s a quiet little boy. He’s shy. And he acts younger than the other first graders. He’s needy in a way that touches my heart. Even when he smiles, it’s a sad smile.
The other children have tried to include Anthony in their games, but he can’t be persuaded to join in. He seeks me out on the playground and sticks close to my side.
I know from the school records that Anthony’s mother is not in the picture. It’s just him and his dad living in a small apartment.
He’s lonely. And he’s cautious. He’s one worried little man.
So when Anthony drew the picture of a hand and no one could guess why. I asked Anthony to tell the class why he’s thankful for a hand.
“It’s your hand, teacher.” He explained.
I looked down at my own hand and saw it was indeed similar to the one Anthony drew. Right down to the detail of my wedding band.
Anthony continued. “Everyone needs a helping hand, and yours is always open to me.” Thank you, teacher.
With that, the little girl next to Anthony reached over and held his hand. This time Anthony smiled a happy smile. Then the boy who loves pizza took his other hand. And Anthony smiled another happy smile.
Those sweet young children formed a human chain of hands right there in the circle on the rug, and the light of God was upon them.
Hand-holding became a thing we do from that day forward, in Anthony’s class and all of my other classes in the years that followed.
Be thankful for the human touch. It’s a powerful expression of what’s right with this world. It’s a reminder that you are loved, it’s the perfect way to show affection, and it turns out it’s another way to pay attention to someone who just may be yearning to be held.