Lessons From My Left Hand By Elisa Morgan
Up until recently, I've had two dogs. An old soul named Wilson (pictured), who just last week moved to doggie heaven, and a younger, impish dog named Coach. I've always liked walking them together, Ben-Hur-chariot-style. But one day before Wilson left us, he struggled and I paused to help him, not paying much attention to Coach. That is until he took off after a bunny, taking the leash and my right hand with him. My right ring finger popped out of joint, skewing abnormally at a 45° angle. It took several visits over many days to evaluate the damage and set a surgery date.
My right ring finger is now sutured back into an appropriate angle. I whimpered to the surgeon just before going under, "I'm a writer. I need my right hand." He smiled reassurance. Now as I sit dictating - deep in frustration that this stupid device can't understand exactly what I'm saying - I'm trying to make sense of oh-so-much that doesn't make sense in our world.
In this season when I've lost my right-hand function, I'm learning lessons from my left hand. A startling thought births: What might I be missing when only depending on and functioning with my right hand? A google search reports that a full 10% of the U.S. population is left-handed. I remember left-handed desks in my school classrooms, consider my left-handed friends who skew their notebooks and curl their hands to write, note a left-hander at a dinner table selecting a more comfortable seat to avoid the awkward need to bump elbows with others. I rarely - personally - accommodate for this need. Rather, I assume the left-handers in my world will rearrange themselves to adapt in my right-handed world.
To be clear, my brief experience in left-handedness is temporary, but it has caused me to wonder about larger issues, and how those who experience a different reality from me every day navigate our world. Around 13% of the U.S. population is African American. Like my ignorance of the left-handed in our country and my lack of consideration or accommodation for what they might prefer or require, how might my dominant white perspective further limit or even wound my brothers and sisters of color?
As I take time for my right hand to recover, I turn my attention to the thick weight of racial inequity weighing down my heart and to voices I may have missed in the past. I listen to a podcast (Where Ya From? Episode 5) and then read a blog (Justice Too Long Delayed) and my mental wheels whirr into realizations. I reach for my journal to jot notes to hold my learning close to my heart and realize that my right hand can't help me here. Instead, my left hand opens, offering a humbled prayer. The remote control in my left hand scrolls through movies, searching for a title to both distract and comfort. I settle on "Harriet" and watch every frame of every scene as there is no way to pause, advance, or rewind. Its message echoes in my heart.
How might I have missed, even been blinded to, some important and even egregious realities because I hold my white perspective as universal - when it is not?
Yes, trying out my left hand instead of my preferred right feels awkward and unfamiliar. Humbling myself to think honestly about race and injustice also pushes me into uncomfortable territory. Understanding the legitimate need of everyone to have equal access to everything I have access to requires adjustment. But maybe this necessary adjustment forces me to be intentional about each motion I make. Maybe this adjustment can guide other needed shifts from unconscious assumption to transformed understanding.
May my new left-handed dependency enlarge my heart to awareness of assumptions that must be owned, processed and never forgotten. And may it also make way for more "left-handed" discoveries to guide my thoughts and actions into a whole new way of being.
Elisa Morgan is the cohost of the new podcast, God Hears Hear. She is also the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her latest book is When We Pray Like Jesus. Her other books include The Beauty of Broken, Hello, Beauty Full, and She Did What She Could. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.