A Left-handed Spirituality, Sort of…


Time for a little fun.  We’ve been heavy into deep prayer topics lately so why not digress for a breather?  I thought of this topic as the school year began and, of course, when International Left-handers Day took place on August 13.  

Full disclosure: I am left-handed.  Most days I do not even think about it but when certain challenges must be met, I regret being left-handed.  Yes, it’s true that only ten percent of the population is left-handed.  When I was in grade school one of the Sisters developed for her master’s thesis how to change left-handed children into right-handed children.  My mother paid for me to participate in the experiment.  But why, I wailed?  You know I will fail.  Mom would have none of this.  She was tired of repairing my broken zippers on coats, jackets and even book bags.  She deplored the fact I just could not learn knitting and I chose to embroider backwards (for which I received a Girl Scout badge anyway!)  She was impatient with my turning the ironing board around to iron and my sloppy use of the soup ladle whose lip favored the right-handed cook.  Can openers were simply impossible – the old-fashioned kind that we had, not the electric ones which were only a little improvement.  My mother was mortified at my penmanship grades, especially as I got into ink pen writing.  The holes for ink bottles were on the upper right side of the desk and we learned cursive writing with real ink pens, not fountain pens, which meant I had to dip the pen into the bottle and carry it all across the desk to my paper.  You can guess what happened.  A trail of ink leaked a little river across the desk and my paper and then sometimes onto my clean skirt before I could write a single word.  And then, my pretty white blouse sleeves looked more like ink blotters by the end of the lesson.

I failed the experiment to change hand dominance.  I remember thinking, this does not seem right.  I cannot be right-handed.  I just knew it!!  The way that Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Michelangelo, Paul McCartney, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, and thousands of other famous people knew they could not change their hand preference.  So, Mom gave up and so did the Sister who tried to change me and so did I, thankfully.  I got through high school and college swiveling myself to take notes on the partial desks for right-handed students.  It was challenging.  I have certain quirks which I understand all lefties have.  I read the newspaper backwards.  When I measure something using a yardstick or ruler, I go from right to left.  I have given up on sewing machines and I struggle to do art exercises for drawing which are all in diagrams for the right-handed.  My wonderful art teacher in my retirement said on the first lesson, “I hope you are not left-handed; I had nothing but problems with left-handed students in my career.”  I could see why.  But she and I adjusted quite well. 

As I matured, I learned what all lefties know and some experience:

  1. Lefties write toward themselves, unlike righties who write away from themselves.  As a result, lefties cannot see what they’re writing unless they cup their arm above the page they are writing on.  Some choose to write under handedly, as I do to see what I am writing.  We underline reading materials with sharpies toward ourselves while righties underline away from themselves.  This slows down the speed at which we read.
  2. Roll books are a major problem for left-handed teachers.  I could never, in over 30 years of teaching, trust myself to get the right grade next to the right name.  And forget about musical instruments, especially strings.  Even a left-handed drummer must reverse the pedals in a drum set.  A major orchestra of over 100 musicians might have 5 or 6 lefties in the whole orchestra.
  3. Sports fare much better; in fact, lefties are often sought after as pitchers, quarterbacks, etc. because they throw off the offense in professional games.
  4. Some religions forced people to become right-handed to join the religion.  In Japan, a left-handed wife was grounds for divorce.  The Catholic Church frowned on lefties stemming from an ultra-orthodox interpretation of the Last Judgment when the damned were placed at God’s left side, and the elect on His right.  The word, sinister, is a Latin derivative for the word, ‘left.’ 


My mother could never figure out why I was left-handed.  There was no evidence of it in her or my dad’s family.  But she suspected her father had been left-handed and was changed due to the custom of the time.  So, I got the errant gene as did three of my brother’s six children.  Figure that out!

Being left-handed is a minor annoyance compared to what other people put up with that curtail activities or in the case of severe handicaps, actually curtail a lifestyle.  Some lefties enjoy being a little different and have a great deal of fun with it.  We repeat slogans like: “Enjoy the Smudge,” or, “I’m Left-handed.  What’s Your Superpower?” 

No matter what is ‘different’ in your life, what characteristics you possess that others don’t, you have to enjoy those characteristics as gifts.  Even when they get in the way or simply remind you how human you really are.  Make a list of those characteristics and spend time in reflection thanking your Creator for all your gifts and characteristics.  The inspiring Psalm 139:13-14 might suit your reflection:

“I will praise You

because I have been fearfully,

wonderfully made.”I am remembering all of you at the holy sites I am privileged to experience on this trip.  Remember: Lefties Rule!!!

4 thoughts on “A Left-handed Spirituality, Sort of…

Add yours

  1. You hit the nail on the head, Sr Mary Annn, yes I am a Lefty!
    I’m trying to recall if I was one of your Student beneficiaries gaining a higher Grade due to that “grade on the “right” line of the students name” which still makes me smile while laughing… your insight as a Lefty and for we Lefties has made for a grand moment of recognition!
    You, dear Mary Ann, are a viable Muse for the ages!
    Be safe as you Walk in His Footsteps asking for Prayers, you are in mine!
    Love ya
    Mary Kalabiha


  2. Do left handed people who write Hebrew or other languages that are read not left to right have an easier time; right handed people a more difficult time? Are there a larger percentage of people who are left handed in these communities? Just wondering!


  3. My brother Brian was left handed, and so was my mother, who was forced by the nuns in Alliance, OH where she grew up to be right handed. When he went to school, in Euclid, OH, they tried to force him to use his right hand and she defended him by saying ‘God made him left handed!’ Thank you for the insights, I am surprised I never noticed you were left handed, I loved finding out more people who are.


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