Oratorical Piece: Dirty Hands
I’m proud of my dirty hands. Yes, they are dirty. And they are rough and knobby and calloused. And I’m proud of the dirt and the knobs and the calluses. I didn’t get them that way by playing bridge or drinking afternoon tea out of dainty cups, or playing the well-advertised Good Samaritan at charity balls.
I got them that way by working with them, and I’m proud of the work and the dirt. Why shouldn’t I feel proud of the work they do – these dirty hands of mine?
My hands are the hands of plumbers, of truck drivers and street cleaners; of carpenters; engineers, machinists and workers in steel.
They are not pretty hands, they are dirty and knobby and calloused. But they are strong hands, hands that make so much that the world must have or die.
Someday, I think, the world should go down on its knees and kiss all the dirty hands of the working world, as in the days long past, armored knights would kiss the hands of ladies fair. I’m proud of my dirty hands. The world has kissed such hands. The world will always kiss such hands. Men and women put reverent lips to the hands of Him who held the hammer and the saw and the plane. His weren’t pretty hands either when they chopped trees, dragged rough lumber, and wielded carpenter’s tools. They were workingman’s hands – strong, capable proud hands. And weren’t pretty hands when the executioners got through them. They were torn right clean through by ugly nails, and the blood was running from them, and the edges of the wounds were raw and dirty and swollen; and the joints were crooked and the fingers were horribly bent in a mute appeal for love.
They weren’t pretty hands then, but, Oh God, they were beautiful – those hands of the Savior. I’m proud of those dirty hands, hands of my Savior, hands of God.
And I’m proud of my hands too, dirty hands, like the hands of my Savior, the Hands of my God!
by John P. Delaney S.J.