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The past three years or so have brought more and more of my attention to my thumbs. Why? Because their worn-out joints complain many times a day. And I can’t blame them for weakening and hurting. Look at all they’ve done for me, for three quarters of a century!

Lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling. Squeezing, twisting, opening, closing. Pouring, filling, shaking, emptying. Typing, cutting, hammering, sewing. Digging, throwing, swinging, catching. Measuring, gesturing, painting, music-making. So very much of what makes us human depends on our lovely little opposable thumbs, doesn’t it?

Just about all my life I’ve known that these tiny tool-graspers helped boost us to the top of the evolutionary ladder. But l confess I blithely took my thumbs for granted—until they started pointing out, almost minute by minute, just what I can’t do without them. Ever try to turn a doorknob without using your thumb? Wield a golf club or a pair of scissors? Push up a window sash? Open a jar? Or even type on a keyboard? (Yes, you only need one thumb to do that, but if it’s not available yoursentenceslooklikethis.)

How lucky I am to have them! Yes, they hurt. No, they don’t do my bidding all the time. But they are here! Sometimes, I admit, my recalcitrant, off-again-on-again, weak-again-strong-again thumbs can be a pain in the… thumb. But where would I be without them?

And then there’s what they teach me. Daily they remind me that because of my little thumbs, not just my outer life, but also my inner life, is infinitely richer. And they remind me of much more than that.

They help me notice the other events, large and small, that may bring me some pain, the people and things that may not always do what I’d like them to do—and are still and always lovable and miraculous.

They tell me once again that perfection is not required here, just our unique spirit-inspired humanness. After all, as homo sometimes-not-so-sapiens we know all about being strong one moment, weak the next, don’t we? Aren’t our lives an alternation of right-on-target and missed-it-by-a-mile? And what if that were okay? Really okay? After all, just like my thumbs, I’m still here, still contributing what I can.

Above all, my thumbs remind me daily of one of our biggest human assets after brains and thumbs: the willingness to Do It Anyway. It hurts? Do it anyway. Not sure of the outcome? Do it anyway. Today you can’t? Try it tomorrow.

Yes, my thumbs say to me, sometimes life hurts. And you’re alive! Live! Sometimes love hurts. And there are others here! Love! Yes, commitment is risky. And here’s a glorious challenge! Commit—and grow—anyway!

Thumbs, in this season of thankfulness I thank you for reminding me how precious you are to me, how glad I am to have you. I say, thumbs up for thumbs! And thumbs up for life, and all the lessons in the little things!

P.S. Next time someone says you’re all thumbs, you might want to take it as a compliment.

I’d love to hear what imperfect-but-wonderful things you’re thankful for, just as they are…

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