I guess I was probably five years old before I learned that I was left-handed. In a family of eight, later nine people, I was the only one with that amazing uniqueness. We were living in Australia at that time, and Mom was pretty adamant with the schoolteacher that I NOT be trained how to write with my right hand, the way so many other children had been forced to learn. As I started to learn how to write in first grade, I listened carefully to the teacher’s instruction on how to hold the pencil, how to turn the paper, and how to write at the angle. She then said – and I remember her words so well – “And as for you, Randy – you just do the opposite.” Not helpful when you are five.
So, I learned how to write left-handed, and like the right-handers, who actually pulled their pencil across the paper to make the letters, I did the same, except it meant turning my hand upside down to create the similar writing style – except I went home every day with a black smudge on the side of my hand where my hand smeared across the lead pencil marks. The good news was in later years, no one could cheat off of me, since I always had my work covered with my left hand and arm.
In my extended family, my grandad and my cousins Joey and Matthew were the only left handers. In my own family, when the nine of us sat around the table, I had two spots where I could sit – on the far left on each side. Otherwise, I constantly knocked elbows with brothers and sisters. To this day, when I am out to eat with folks, I make a beeline toward one of those spots.
Growing up, I found a right-handed world. Especially before technology changed things, I had to fight with the fact that the pencil sharpener was right-handed (go ahead and try, if you have one), as were the dial phone, the key or the button to start the car, the gear shift in our Volkswagen, measuring cups, rulers, computer mouses, every screw on cap in the world, scissors, school desks, guitars and banjos, handshakes, salutes, spiral notebooks, can openers, power cords, and every logo on every coffee mug – and more.
Even the words arising out of ancient language make a statement about right and left handedness. If you have great dexterity, it means you are really good at using your right hand. If you happen to even be ambidextrous, it means you can use either of your Right hands. On the other hand, literally, the word “sinister” means left-handed, as in giving a left-handed compliment, or perhaps you like “southpaw,” although we never talk about a “northpaw.” People are right as rain, righteous, right down the middle, even sitting at the right hand of God. On the other hand – literally, you can be leftover, left out, left the station, left holding the bag, out in left field, or having two left feet. Again, where do we hear about two right feet?
Some estimates are that 10% of the world’s population is left-handed. No one really knows why, except that probably as the brain is developing, when the right side of the brain, which works with intuitivity and creativity and emotion, seems to be developed first or more fully, someone turns out to be left-handed dominant. Of course, still around the world there are cultures and societies that treat left-handedness with disdain, and “break” the left-hander into using the right hand, which studies show leads to stuttering, and other nervous expressions.
The left-handed world has come up with simply phrases to protect their ilk. “If the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, then only left-handed people are in their right minds.” My seminary dean would often say, “Everyone is born left-handed – they only turn right-handed after their first sin.”
Even today, after more than 60 years of being left… handed, about the only thing that we have an advantage with is that we don’t have to change hands to pick up our fork. Even living in a house with three righties, I constantly have to adapt. When we are slicing bread or meat for instance, there is a never-ending exercise of having to turn the item around, so it can be sliced with the proper hand, whichever one is proper for you.
I’m not a victim, and I don’t need any government intervention to “right” this wrong. It would just be nice sometimes to have a person who uses their right hand consistently, to not have to point out my left-handedness, my “difference” as though I had three eyes, or some other physical aberration. We are in a season right now of great anxiety, and it becomes very easy to denigrate or belittle, or even persecute persons based on something other than their behavior or character. Let’s not do that. Let’s not follow an accidental choice to divide and demean, instead of intentionally lifting one another up, and finding the ways in which we can recognize and compliment our differences, all of us as children of God. Both left-handers… and other handers.
Word for the day: pogonotrophy. It’s actually pronounced pa-GONE-a-trah-fee. It’s kind of a funky word, that means “beard growing.” Actually, it’s from the Greek pogon “beard” and trophe “feeding.” Across the US, with the pandemic, and the quarantine, men of all ages stopped shaving, and began the work of pogonotrophy. Let’s not get confused, however – the word doesn’t mean, “Let your facial hair just grow wild.” That’s really just making a mess. Part of pogonotrophy also includes pogonotomy, which is defined, “beard trimming or cutting.” Not that it has to be shaved – just clean them up, boys – the goal of the pandemic is not to send up back to the Stone age…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.