Have you ever thought about how much you use your thumbs? Think especially about the thumb on your dominant hand.
Here’s a short list of ways our thumbs help us:
• zipping pants, putting on socks, tying shoes
• holding a fork, or cutting with a knife
• writing with pen, or painting with a paintbrush
• holding a cup of hot coffee
• turning the house key in the deadbolt
• clicking the key fob to unlock the car door
• putting the key in the ignition and turning it
• changing the radio dial
• shifting gears while driving
• thumbprint ID to unlock a cell phone or app
• computer mouse, keyboard (space bar especially)
And the most important for many: texting.
A stupid move on my part made me realize just how important that odd finger is in everyday life.
Getting ready to retire for the evening, and in a hurry, I stopped in the hallway to pull shut a bedroom door with my left hand, while my right hand was resting on the door frame near the hinges. Was I trying to balance myself? Had I moved too fast?
I don’t quite know how, but my right thumb was in the way of the door jamb. So when I pulled the door to shut it, the other side of the door squashed the tip of my right thumb.
The pain shot all the way up to my elbow. My scream startled my husband. I thought for a moment I might pass out. By the time I could look at the injury, the thumb was swollen and a bruise had appeared under the nail.
My husband prepared a mini ice bath in a jar and I was glad when the thumb finally went numb. I slept with an ice pack, but of course it melted during the night. I awoke to more throbbing.
Trying to get ready for work that next morning, I started the list above, mentally at the time.
Shortly after I wrote this, I heard about a friend who had been in a terrible skiing accident. I don’t know how many bones he broke, but he said that, for now at least, he has the use of just one arm.
I felt small for whining about a little bruise on my thumb.
Then I thought about some news I got a couple of years ago, about a beloved high school teacher who had some health issues and had to have both legs amputated.
And I thought about veterans who came home from combat minus a limb or two, and those who lost their vision or hearing. I thought about women who have had breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy.
Today, as I’m editing this for publication, I got the news that a longtime friend is in ICU with a severe case of COVID-19 and is on oxygen 24/7. Loved ones aren’t allowed to visit.
I smashed my thumb in a door. How thoughtless I was to think I could write something humorous about something so minor, when so many others are faced with a lifetime of pain, inconvenience and adjustments.
How can I be flip about my thumb when many out there are truly suffering? Maybe it was the universe’s way of making me stop and think.
These continue to be strange times we’re living in. Lives are in turmoil because of the pandemic, in economic crisis because of lost jobs and business, and in health crisis for numerous reasons.
This season, let us focus not on our little aches and twinges and bruises, but on how we can help others get through their very real pain. Let’s be sensitive and kind, let’s show empathy.
Especially during the holidays, a little kindness goes a long way.