A pair of hands are shown. The hands are wrinkled, tanned, and have dirt under the fingernails and on the skin. Rings are worn on both hands.

What My Uncle Taught Me About Getting My Hands Dirty

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When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by my Uncle’s hands. I would see him wash them, but no matter how much he scrubbed. His hands would never get clean. 

He used his hands to build, fix, mow, clean, carry, and cut. He also used his hands to hold, heal, sponsor, embrace, love, care, and comfort. In every instance, he never shied away from a project that seemed unfixable or a person who appeared unlovable. 

I now understand how symbolic that dirt was on my Uncle’s hands. Why I was so focused on it, and what it was there to teach me. Whether he was in a chimney, a school, a yard, or a home…Whether he was with his wife, his children, his siblings, his family, or his friends—My Uncle was never afraid to get his hands dirty. 

I would love to share with you all the magic that was my Uncle. The things I learned from him like, take the long way around, wear hand-me-downs, make time to know every single person in your family big and small, go slower, work joyfully, serve others, always be patient, get on the floor to play with children, smile all the time, laugh every chance you get, love and accept others just as they are, but that would be like pulling individual stars from the sky. You’d miss the beauty in his perfect constellation. 

Instead, I’ll just share that the most important lesson I might ever learn was the one that Uncle Bobby lived, and which finally made sense when I heard how he died…

As he weeded his last garden and was mowing his last lawn for a dear friend, after literally dancing under an apple tree with gratitude for the incredible life he was living with his wife, family, and friends, the happiest and most peaceful man I’ve ever known laid down in the grass, to take a little rest. The perfect exit for those hands that existed only to serve and offer kindness to others.

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