Your Hands,Your Story.


Written by: Tino Hernandez

No quotes today as the following is full of priceless quotes from some of my real life heroes.


Have you ever visited one of those institutions they call rehabilitation centers, retirement communities or other such names?  They’re the places where elderly people go to when they can no longer care for themselves.

A few years ago my company did daily cleaning work for one such center.  I spent many hours a week in this facility because of the number of employees we had on site and our desire to meet the needs of the residents with our services.  I meet some wonderful “seasoned” people at this facility and I would like to tell you something about three of them.

Jack was a rather grumpy old gentleman, using the term gentleman loosely, whom I often found sitting in the dining hall early before each of the day’s meals.  He would roll himself and his wheel chair across the long west hall on the 2nd floor to the main elevator and take that down to the 1st floor.  Once the elevator doors opened it was a short roll to the main dining hall.

Jack would sit in his wheel chair reading the morning paper, a book, or a magazine as he waited for the meal to be served.  Jack seldom spoke to anyone and one day I got brave and decided to ask Jack a question.  As I already knew his name I walked up to him and said good morning Jack!  Jack replied in his usual leave me the heck alone voice with a grumpy, “good morning.”

Jack, I said, I have a question that I hope you would answer for me.  What did you do before you came to live here?  Jack looked up at me and said.  “I used to be a professional photographer and worked for Time Magazine, The New York Times and companies like that.  I was in journalistic photography.”  I was shocked and no sooner had I been embraced by that feeling that Jack said, “but nobody cares anymore.”  Jack then went back to reading his paper and I said to Jack.  That’s really neat Jack.  Thanks for Sharing.  Jack Passed away a few weeks later.

In my travels around the facility it didn’t take long before I met Grace.  Grace was president of the resident’s board.  They were the body of residents that ensured the facility met the needs of the residents.  Basically they gave the people a voice and a sense of control.  Grace was a no-nonsense woman and made sure that when she spoke you were looking her in the eye and understanding every word.  If she felt that you were not in tune with her message she would look you sternly in the eye and say, “pay attention.”

I approached Grace one day as she was visiting with the facility reception person.  Like Jack, I asked Grace what she had done for a living prior to her arrival at the home.  Grace told me that she had been an executive at Abbot Labs, a healthcare and research lab in the northern part of Illinois.  Grace seemed to light up as she told me of how she had enjoyed her career and how much she missed the feeling of accomplishment that came with it.  I could see how Grace had been elected for several terms as the president of the resident’s board.

Then there was Gloria.  Gloria always referred to herself with her first and last names.  I will not use her full name to protect whoever needs protecting here including Gloria.  I think that when Gloria was in her prime that her last name meant something to the people in her community.  I could tell by the way she said it that it still meant something very dear to her.

I asked Gloria what she had done prior to living at the home.  She told me that she was a stay at home mom who raised her children the right way.  She told me that she lived from the income her husband had provided via his business.  When he passed, she sold the business and enjoyed life.  I could tell that Gloria enjoyed the finer things in life and I could only imagine what she may have done with the proceeds from the business sale.

The wonderful thing that I learned from these three people, and the others of whom I asked the same question, is that they each had a story that as often as we spoke grew and grew. I also learned that we also have a story of where we have been and where we are going and each day it also grows.

The most wonderful thing about our story is that we have the power, through our habits, decisions, dedication, and learnings to shape our own story.  Just like a potter works to shape his creation, we too shape our own lives with the very work of our hands.

Tino Hernandez

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