The Praying Hands
“I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.” <Mahatma Gandhi>
The Story Begins
Many of you may have seen the drawing of hands clasped together and lifted in prayer.
The original drawing was done by Albrecht Durer in the fifteenth century to honor his brother Albert. The story behind the drawing is inspirational, endearing, and loving. When you hear or read the story you immediately get a feeling of hope and your heart swells with the realization that out of little, much can be gained.
Albrecht was one of eighteen children. The father worked as a goldsmith for many hours everyday and took on other jobs to provide for his family. He worked hard but, of course, with eighteen children to clothe, feed and provide shelter for, money was always tight. Albrecht worked with his father learning from him a skill that would serve him all his life. But he and his brother Albert had a dream, one they often talked about long into the night and, I would imagine, said many prayers about. They each wanted to be an artist.
A Toss of a Coin
Everything seemed so hopeless. The family could not afford to send one, and both of them going to artist school was out of the question. So the brothers talked and decided on a plan. They would toss a coin and the loser would support the winner by working in the mines to pay the tuition. A sacrifice for sure because working in the mines was not only hard work, but dangerous and unhealthy. At the end of Albrecht’s 4-years at the Art Academy the other brother would then go to art school while being support by either the sale of his brother’s art work or he too would work in the mines. Albrecht won the toss. With a smile on his face and gratitude in his heart, off he goes to the Academy. Albert waves to his brother knowing that in 4-years it would be his turn. However, it was not to be.
A Celebration Turns to Tears
The air is filled with the aroma of good food, all of Albrecht's favorites. Everyone was overjoyed. Their son, brother, friend has returned.
Family and friends gathered for dinner and to celebrate the accomplishments and homecoming of Albrecht. Albrecht was given a place of honor at the table and everyone enjoyed the great food, shared wonderful stories and lots of laughter. All through dinner Albrecht thought about his wonderful and generous brother and after a while stood to say words of appreciation and pay tribute to this brother who sacrificed so much. He then shared with the others the plan the two of them had made years earlier. “And now my dear and blessed brother of mine, it is now your turn. Albert, you can now go to Nuremberg to the Art Academy to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”
Albert sat with tears glistening in his eyes and staining his face. He silently shook his head as he looked at his family and his brother with love. “It is too late for me, my brother, I cannot go to Nuremberg.” He held up his hands to show what four years working in the mines had done to his hand. “Every finger on both hands has been smashed, some more than once. Arthritis has all but crippled one hand…no, my brother, it is too late for me."
I can imagine the silence that engulfed the room. I look around the table and see family and friends starring at Albert with both horror and pity, others simply drop their eyes not knowing what to say or do. I can see the face of Albrecht as he looks across the table at his brother as his own tears start to flow. He suddenly bolts from his place and goes quickly to his brother and they embrace. “It is going to be alright Albert. Don’t you worry it is going to be alright.”
Greatest Artist of Northern Renaissance
Albrecht became very well know as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance. His portraits, sketches, watercolors, engravings, etc hang in every great museum in the world.
Of his vast body of works the one that most of us are familiar with is the one that he drew to honor his selfless brother. Albrecht painstakingly and with love in every stroke drew his brother’s abused hands. He called the drawing “Hands,” but it so resonated with everything and people who saw it begin to call it “Praying Hands”.
The first time I remembering reading this story of Albrecht and the “Praying Hands” was in a book titled “A Better way to Live” by Og Mandino. I’ve seen and re-read it many times since then. There seem to be some question as to the validity of the story in whole or in part. True or not it is a story that allows the reader to feel a sense of expectation. There is much that each of us can learn from and the lessons are as many as there are people reading.
- Out of little much can be gained because that is what families do (or should do) take care of each other.
- We do not get through life without the help of others.
- The love of family is both a gift and a blessing.
- “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” <Ryunosuke Satora>
- “In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” <Alex Haley>
- “No matter what you’ve done for yourself or for humanity, if you can’t look back on having given love and attention to your family, what have you really accomplished?” <Elbert Hubbard>
- There is no other love like the love for a brother. There is no other love like the love from a brother. <Terri Guillemets>
- We share dreams, memories and love each other…not take advantage of each other.
Whenever I happen to see a picture or painting of those hands I am captivated by them and I think about my mother kneeling in prayer. To me, there are very few things more powerful than a mother praying for her children.
The next time you see a picture of the “Praying Hands” stop for a moment and reflect on the hope, love and sacrifice they represent.
Love to all,
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