His Empty Hand

Or here’s a story. A man just back from elsewhere tells it to me.
The place I was, he says, the law was that a thief lost his fingers,
The theory being that he could not steal again, but an accusation
Was the same as conviction. A man I knew, his son stole bottles
Of water for a friend who had a new child and basically no cash.
The son is sentenced to lose his left hand, but the dad intercedes,
Offering his hand for his son’s. His offer is accepted by the cops,
An officer comes with an axe, they bury the hand with ceremony
Out back. Now, when this father, who was a friend of mine, tells
Me this story, and sure I gaped at his empty hand, I kept thinking
What’s the meaning of this, you know? What’s the message here,
Other than savagery and what, if you were polite, you would call
Cultural disparity, you know? And it is the dad who answers this.
Why, wouldn’t you give both hands for your sons and daughters?
He asks. Wouldn’t you give anything, if they are in some trouble?
In a way I feel shame, he says, because what happened is so clear,
As if I am boasting of my love for my son. But all mothers would
Do this, and all fathers. If you would not then you are not a parent,
You are only a means through which your child entered the world.
To only be a gate, not a man willing to lose himself, that is shame.
Is that not the essence of your believing in the Father and the Son?

roberta gittens
4 years 9 months ago

OMG! What a powerful and poignant piece - my hands flew involuntarily to my face.


Thank you all for this thought provoking, emotionally moving piece.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Immigration officials “no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement” and “have full authority to arrest or apprehend an alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws.”
Michael O'LoughlinFebruary 21, 2017
El sistema de libre empresa es compatible con nuestra preocupación por los desfavorecidos, escribe un economista y católico converso.
Arthur C. BrooksFebruary 21, 2017
The pope's emphasis on protecting undocumented workers is particularly significant for Europe and the United States, where the treatment of refugees and migrants has been a consistent challenge.
Gerard O'ConnellFebruary 21, 2017
With his 5,800-word manifesto on “Building Global Community,” the Facebook C.E.O. seems to be easing ever more into his role as benevolent dictator of the media universe.
Nathan SchneiderFebruary 21, 2017