Family Works: Speaking on left-handedness

Posted 10/2/18

Speaking on oeft-handedness

I still remember my third-grade teacher summoning me to the front of the classroom. “What is this?” “It’s my paper,” I nervously replied. “Why? Is there …

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Family Works: Speaking on left-handedness

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Speaking on oeft-handedness
I still remember my third-grade teacher summoning me to the front of the classroom. “What is this?” “It’s my paper,” I nervously replied. “Why? Is there something wrong with it?” “I don’t know if there is anything wrong (or for that matter, right) about his paper. How would I know? I can’t read it.” Then she called Amanda to the front. Giving her a piece of chalk, she asked “Amanda, could you please write Robert’s name on the board?” She did, and (of course) it was perfect. Every letter was exactly like the cursive letters hanging above the blackboard. “See,” my teacher scolded, “Amanda can write your name even better than you can write your own name, without any practice at all.” This little exercise in humiliation certainly didn’t help my writing, even one lick. I just stopped liking her, and Amanda too.
One reason that I have never been any good at handwriting is that I am part of the 7 percent of the world’s population that writes left-handed. This means that I can’t see my letters as I write them. Amanda could see her letters. She was part of the vast majority who write the "correct" way, right-handed. Of course, I am not alone. Left-handers struggle in a right-handed world against discrimination and sometimes even persecution. Was I being persecuted in third grade? Many of my left-hand comrades have experienced much worse.
We have so many positive connotations for the word “right.” Am I right about this or not? I think I’m right-on. Of course, you probably will dismiss what I’m saying. What’s a left-handed guy know about being upright in what he says? To be right means that I am straight, erect, and/or just. Even the Bill of Rights defends the right way of living. Sadly, I come from the left. There is no Bill of Lefts. In a country where 1 in 3 presidents have been left-handed, you would think that maybe we could have at least had a Bill of Lefts and Rights. But, no, that wouldn’t be right. Even the Oxford English Dictionary once defined left-handed as “crippled, defective, awkward, and clumsy." I guess that’s pretty much true. I know that if I engage in a left-handed business I am doing something unlawful or unsavory. A left-handed compliment is really an insult. Left-handed wisdom is a collection of errors.
Even our actions speak as loud as our language. An oath is taken with the right hand, never the left. We drive on the right side of the road. We paste postage stamps on the right side of the envelope. We take a picture using our right forefinger to click the shutter. We shift gears with our right hand. Most tools are designed for right-handed individuals; not only in the workshop, but in the technical world, too.
As if prevailing beliefs and actions were not enough to make growing up in a right-handed world more than a little complicated, there are physical hardships as well. Lefthanders are more likely to have allergies, be asthmatic, have sleep disorders, and die sooner.
Given so many sad realities, I wonder why I really like being left-handed. I guess I just like being different. I know that puts me out there in left field.

Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.

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