My grandmother and I do not share the same language. I barely speak any French and she has two or three words of English. I am 10 years old, holding hands with my mémé in a French marketplace. Nowhere else do I feel more held, loved, or understood than in these sacred walks to-and-from the marché with my mémé.
I am older now. And we share the common tongue of le français now. Sexy and alluring to many, complicated and colonizing to others, and a mix of memory, grief, freedom, and play to me.
My mémé died last summer. I was there to hold her hand as much as I could. When I speak in French now, I think of her, as well as my mother who has also passed. I think of all those moments we shared without language too.
In this strange and unsettling time of a global pandemic, I take time to reflect on the “why”: Why did I start this hand holding project with strangers in the first place?
Not from the lonely years, as I had previously thought, living and dating in the big city. No, this all started as the small seed of an idea. In that marketplace with my grandmother, in the act of her offering of her hand as support when language could not be shared. As a sacred ritual, a sort of communion, a shared intimacy, we were able to bridge the linguistic barrier and hold each other, each day, without words.
And so here we are now: Fast forward to March 2020 at the height of the Coronavirus outbreak. Without a means of touch.
I look back and look around to see people starving for connection, for some wisdom and perspective during this strange and confusing time. I think of whose hand I would most like to be holding at this time. I think of all the hands left untouched. I see the hands of the elderly, which are the most vulnerable and least likely to be touched right now.
I take a deep breath. In fully. Out fully. And hold my own hand. I feel sweat, my fingers, heat. A settling sensation courses through my body as I look inward and am reminded that my grandmother’s teachings are still within me. That the mentors and second mothers who held my hand for all those tender years of my upbringing are still here inside.
The imprints of our hands–the offerings of hands to one another–this act of figuratively reaching out during this crisis bears witness to our common human struggle for connection.
We need each other. We are one. We are scared. We are brave. We have hands of wisdom to give.
We are in an unprecedented moment of global reflection in the face of an invisible virus. It is an incredibly confusing time in history. And so, I’d like to invite you to share your own pieces of knowledge or wisdom that has been imparted on you, to extend a hand to others.
Share and describe feelings of being held and any perspective that this experience may have offered you.
Questions in mind:
- Whose hand would you like to be holding right now the most?
- What pieces of wisdom, care, comfort, and perspective would your elders be telling you and the world right now?
- What “things” have held your hand over the years?
- When was the last time you felt truly held?
Submit your hand portrait or “hand selfie” (any medium: photo, video, drawing, ink, etc.) and a piece of wisdom you’d like to share: ToHoldAHand@gmail.com
I will be putting together a mural of hands together as a tapestry of support, and posting your hands to AHand2HoldProject.com.
Now is the time to reach out and offer a hand.
~ Sophie L Thunberg (SLT website)