Don’t Hide it, Flaunt It…until reading about Meg Zucker recently in Scholastic Parent & Child magazine, the thought had never seriously crossed my mind. If I were truly honest, I was more like, “Hide it, Don’t Flaunt It.” Having one hand is something that I have always somewhat hid to most of the world. The only place that I was truly comfortable was around close friends and family. For some reason, the other place that I have always felt comfortable was while playing athletics or at the gym. It has always been very empowering to do something athletic that people seem to have doubt about or look on with curiosity. It seems doubt is the first emotion that I can remember witnessing from others throughout my life. This has always made me a more determined person. I have heard the phrase, “Wow! For having one hand, you can do that almost as well as me….” “No, I have one hand and can do it better than you! Admit it!!” The best part about Don’t Hide it, Flaunt It is the attitude that it brings. My life has changed for the better because of this. I have noticed myself “flaunting” my hand more and caring less about who sees it, especially in public. I can remember as a kid going to bed at night hoping that in the morning I would wake up with fingers. I think it’s safe to say it’s not going to happen and I’m happy that it hasn’t!
I feel very lucky to have a supportive family who never treated me differently. My parents always encouraged me with a can-do attitude. I’m sure they had their doubts along the way, but they never once showed it. I’ve also been very lucky to have a lot of friends over the years that have never treated me differently either. From an early age, I was always very involved in sports. I was also blessed to grow up in a neighborhood full of kids. I grew up in subdivision with another family that was particularly influential in my life. They helped instill confidence in me through playing sports with them that has lasted a lifetime. My best friend growing up was from that family, Carson Walch. Carson was like my bodyguard. If ever someone looked at my hand funny, he was there. I spent hour upon hour playing sports in his yard. Never once was I looked at as the kid with one hand.
What is it like having one hand? It can be awkward, tough, fun and intriguing, well….intriguing to strangers! Awkward because of the stares, tough because of the challenges it present’s, fun because of its uniqueness. I have been asked a million questions about it. My usual answer is, “I was born this way.” I have also given answers like, “A shark ate it,” or “You should see the other guy,” and, “I didn’t eat my vegetables as a kid!” To me, my difference doesn’t stop me from doing what I want to do. It allows me to do things in a more creative way than others. Basically I have a 1/8 of a thumb on my left hand and a few small “peanut” looking formations. I have never really sought a medical explanation as to why. It is all that I have ever known. I have never and will never let it stop me from doing anything that I want to do. I’m lying a bit there, I have always wanted to give two thumbs up to my wife’s meatloaf!
Having no left hand has its challenges. The hardest things that I have faced are things that come easy to others. I can remember as a kid struggling mightily to tie my shoes. My parents wouldn’t let me give up; I so badly just wanted to wear Velcro shoes. I can remember crying over and over until one day I finally was able to do it. My left hand has good pinching power to it. I am able to grasp light objects in it and pinch between my thumb and where my index finger would be.
People tend to stare at my hand. Over my lifetime, it has become less uncomfortable; in fact I usually have fun with it. Last Sunday in church, a little girl in the pew in front of me got very scared when she noticed my different hand. She noticed at the moment I had both hands in the air during the recital of the Our Father. She quickly alerted her mother, grandfather and sister. The next thing I knew, a whole pew of people were staring at me. I just whispered, “God made me this way.” I then looked up at Jesus and smiled. Kids are usually the ones who notice, they are the ones that ask questions or get scared. If adults notice, they usually give an uncomfortable smile, or do a double-take and pretend to not see it. I’ve seen a lot of uncomfortable smiles in my life.
I would like to thank Meg Zucker for inspiring me to write this blog. I feel very lucky and honored for the chance to write a guest flaunt for her website. She has helped me re-capture the determination that I had as a young kid trying to learn to tie my shoes. Most people are born with ten fingers and ten toes. For many years, I wished I was one of them. I can say with all of my heart that I am blessed to be different!