May 21, 2020
Dear College Community,
It was her hands that initially caused me to marvel. Our newborn daughter was just a couple of minutes old as the nurse handed her to Lisa. Instinctively, I reached over to touch my child’s hand for the first time, and she gripped on to my finger. The intricacy of her fingers and tiny nails was the initial source of wonderment and gratitude for the miracle of a new life.
Perhaps that was the beginning of my fascination with hands. Their evolution is remarkable, and they are one of several ways by which human beings have progressed and achieved so much that is beyond most other intelligent creatures.
Whenever I speak to prospective students I tell about my favorite “Peanuts” comic strip featuring Linus and Lucy. The gist is about the unlimited potential that lies within our hands. As Linus says, they present opportunities to do everything from hitting home runs to curing disease, or from building sky scrapers to writing soul-stirring novels. Our hands, Linus reminds us, have the potential to change the course of human destiny.
I cannot think of a more fitting image for Davis & Elkins College. Each year new students arrive on this campus with hands full of potential … both literally and figuratively. Over their years on the sacred grounds of this campus, their hands … their hopes and dreams … are ignited and nurtured. They are given the skills, when coupled with their gifts and graces, that quite literally place the world at their fingertips. The only limits they encounter are the self-imposed limits they place upon themselves. Within their collective hands, each of our students has the potential to do amazing things, even change the course of human destiny.
I have a picture as the wallpaper on the screen of my office computer. The picture shows two hands, one laying on top of the other in a peaceful scene. A lengthy and active life is evident in the age spots of these hands with visible veins showing through thin skin. This man’s hands tell a story of great achievements, meaningful relationships, physical labor and untold lives touched. They make evident 88 years of tasks from the mundane to the miraculous. They tell a vivid story of a life well-lived and they foreshadow the soon-to-be end of an earthly life. The peacefulness of the scene speaks of the promise of eternal life.
I took this photograph just a few days before assuming the presidency of Davis & Elkins College. Just two days before his death, I sat in solitude with my father in a hospice room. I looked at his hands and marveled at his life so well lived. My dad took God’s gift of life and used his hands to care for people and make a difference. He inspired me and so many others to see only potential in our collective hands and for that I am eternally grateful.
As I take a summer hiatus from this weekly labor of love I call “Reflecting Along the Journey,” I am thankful for newborns, dying servants, students and everyone else who values hands that can change the course of human destiny.
The journey continues….