Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood.
Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder's children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.
After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines.
They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg.
Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.
When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht's triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you."
All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, "No ...no ...no ...no."
Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look ... look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother ... for me it is too late."
More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer's hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer's works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.
One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother's abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."
The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look. Let it be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one - no one - - ever makes it alone!
Moral of the story
This is a story of sacrifice and gratitude which are virtues that are becoming a scarcity these days.
In this story Albert was so touched by the gratitude of his brother Albrecht Durer for having sacrificed his own ambitions in order to enable him to achieve his. Albert never regretted for doing what he did for his brother. On his part Albrecht expressed his deepest gratitude to his brother and gave all he had in his possession to express that gratitude to his brother in the form of the “Praying Hands”. We can imagine how he would have felt when he drew the crushed hands of his bother that were the source of his success.
This story should have touched us in some way as we all make some sacrifices for those we love, our parents, spouse, children siblings or friend. The greatest happiness for us is when those whom we sacrificed for appreciates what we have done for them. A little gesture of appreciation from will go a long way to encourage and inspire us to do greater things to many others.
Parents, like Albert in the story, feel happy when their children succeed due to their sacrifices and they feel extremely happy when they show their appreciation for their sacrifices. There is no happiness greater than that they get when their children ‘remain’ with them when they are old and incapacitated with ill-health. They do not need money, gifts or food but a secure place in the hearts of their children at that stage in their lives.
On the other hand children should adopt the attitude of Albrecht Durer who showed extreme gratitude for the sacrifices of his brother that he cannot repay with any amount of money. He repaid his brother with the greatest gift he had, his artistic talent. Imagine how immense would have been his feelings for his brother as he drew the crushed hands of his brother.
Gratitude is what most of us lack these days when life has become so competitive, materialistic and complex. A simple thank you, a phone call, a simple message or letter to express our gratitude to someone who has helped us will be all that is needed to inspire the person who helped. Unfortunately such simple gestures are hard to come by today. We seem to be too busy to even say thank you.
Even children forget the sacrifices of their poor and elderly parents once they are are better positions. They give all sorts of excuses; too busy, no time, financial difficulties, stress at work, sickness in the family and so on. This story of the “Praying hands “should prompt us to reflect on ourselves; how grateful are we to those who have helped us at one time or another?