When I was in fourth grade, we painted the Nativity scene along with other memorable Christmas pictures on the classroom windows. Our teacher, Ms. Campbell, guided us through the process. We probably used a stencil of some sort to sketch; but I do remember the actual joy of painting on the glass. I wonder if children still do this today!
Somehow, the Three Wise Men stick out in my mind. It made us feel great as we used our hands to create something grand. Every passerby on the street could see our handiwork and be drawn into the spirit of Christmas.
Busy hands have helped people cope for eons. Some people tinker under the hoods of their cars or whittle or build items out of wood. My parents used to upholster pieces of furniture as a team. At one point, my mother made different types of jewelry.
I am reminded of the women of yesteryear in certain novels or period movies. We see them knitting, embroidering or sewing as they discuss issues of great concern. I think of Marmee in Little Women who quilted or Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility who knitted or the unmatched Madame Defarge who is often seen knitting in the wine shop in The Tale of Two Cities. Though Madame Defarge’s handiwork had a dark intent, the readers always see her hands in motion. All of the women found a degree of solace and a sense of satisfaction as they used their hands.
One of my aunts, who is quite a horticulturalist, nurtures her plants for comfort. And, they are quite beautiful. She can give the history of each plant and her sweetheart rose brushes. When she really wants a reprieve from life’s issues, she goes into her greenhouse and sits and feels the love emanating from her green thumb.
One of my older sisters sews. She is the seamstress and when things weigh heavily on her mind and if she is feeling up to par, she pulls out some cloth and she designs, cuts and puts her hand or foot to the metal and sews on her Singer. (We all started out with Singer sewing machines). Just checked with her, it is a Pfaff. But, the bottom line is that the skill, itself is her think tank, her mantra. Busy hands.
Sometimes, I might go and buy a paint-by-number set if I do not want to read or write. I know, I know. But, some of these pictures actually turn out quite nicely. And, I paint. It does not have to be an intricate set, but the moving of the strokes of the brush and the changing of the colors can be calming and peaceful. I have actually hung a few of my paintings!
A while back, one my coworkers brought her sewing machines to school. She taught sewing to the girls and boys of her 6th grade class. They made the costumes for one of the assemblies and they were so proud of themselves. Many of them learned the rewards that come with a positive, creative venture. There were fewer arguments and more cooperation while focused on a common goal.
Our youth need so much. I bought countless blank books for girls who would come to me in tears about personal matters. I introduced them a new best friend- a journal. I saw later how they guarded their new found friend with their lives. They started pressing out those thoughts in longhand with those busy hands.
Our elders used to say that “idle hands were the devil’s workshop.” They knew the importance of being engaged in some project. When we are cleaning, washing dishes, sweeping, mopping, painting, writing, drawing, gardening or whatever, we do find a level of peace. More clarity comes and we can ease into the next phase of our existence with a new level of calm. So, if the holidays bring a bit too much stress your way, find some purposeful outlet and get those hands busy!
Lynn December 21, 2014