A Reflection on the Power of Hands & Words
I graduated from McNary High School in 2011, and some of the best memories I have from high school are from band and choir. These were places where everyone was accepted and anyone could fit in. In music, the only barrier was how hard we were willing to work. I can recall countless hilarious moments with friends, and more stories than I ever have time to talk about. The thing I remember most about myself in high school was that the world seemed huge!
Something that I remember vividly was the emotional responses that I had in my teenage years. When it felt bad, it felt BAD. When it felt good, it was GREAT! I remember how tremendous it felt to have a crush. How it felt to fail a test. How it felt to perform a trumpet solo. All the big moments in high school seemed so magnified!
Well, on April 21st, 2010 the world around me became microscopic. In a single moment, my whole world came crashing down. This was the night my brother took his own life.
When I reflect on these moments, I remember the pain and the grief that I felt. It was not easy, and to be honest it was plain ugly for a while. Although my family experienced tremendous pain, the love we had for my brother fueled a desire to make the world a better place. My mother is now a counselor, my sister is a social worker, and I am a teacher. We devoted ourselves to making a difference. All it takes is a little curiosity and compassion. One person at a time.
Healing and growth doesn’t happen overnight; it took years to overcome the pain and grief from my experience. Soon after my brother’s passing, I joined the Hands and Words are Not for Hurting class at McNary. Under the direction of Jim Taylor, this class gave me a sense of purpose. The Hands and Words organization gave me a direction to focus my energy. In the first week of class, I learned that I was not alone. Hands and Words gave me an outlet that music couldn’t. I was able to share my experience in a way that created positive change. Hands and Words took an event that shattered my world and gave me the tools and resources to face it head-on.
When I took the Purple Hands Pledge® for the first time I did not have a strong sense of the purpose behind it. At the start of every class, we would all put our hands on our hearts and say the Hands and Words Pledge as a group. Each time we repeated the Pledge it brought greater meaning. In this day and age of digital communication and social media, words can sometimes lose their strength. The one statement that has never lost its weight with me is a simple one. “I Will Not Use My Hands Or My Words For Hurting Myself Or Others®.”
This Pledge and the act of saying it with my peers brought a sense of self-confidence and conviction. The more we said it, the more we gained from it. By the end of my time at McNary, I had devoted myself to always being curious of what other people were going through. It is easy to dismiss another person’s actions and label them accordingly. However, this Pledge and the Hands and Words organization taught me to always ask myself: “What might this person have experienced to manifest their personality and their actions?”
As I am writing this, I am just about to start my fourth year teaching. The perspective that Hands and Words gave me in high school has been a huge resource as a teacher. Through the tools, we were gifted and the empathy that we practiced, I now have a unique position as a teacher. I am patient, understanding, and empathetic with my students. I strive to give my students a voice of their own and hope that someday they might do the same for others.
My name is David Blake and I Will Not Use My Hands Or My Words For Hurting Myself Or Others®.