Empty Hands

Empty Hands

A reflection on giving and receiving in partnership

This resource, “Empty Hands,” provides an opportunity for reflection on giving and receiving in global partnerships. Read it as a group and share feelings and responses.

When people approach one other with their hands full of gifts for each other, they cannot even shake hands or embrace in greeting, much less exchange their gifts, so long as their hands are full. First they must set these gifts aside in order to greet each other with empty hands.

Given our constant struggle against the insidious temptations to incur gratitude and gain influence over others with our gifts, what better place on which to put these gifts when we approach each other than the altar at the foot of the Cross? Once we have each brought our gifts forward to that altar and placed them there as a genuine thank-offering, we are then able to turn our backs on them and for that moment our hands are empty.

We are now free to greet one another as sisters and brothers in Christ, to embrace, to walk and work together in witness and service, to laugh and cry together in joy and sorrow experienced in solidarity – and then to take from that same altar each according to our need. The altar will have purified the gift of the inevitable lingering traces of manipulation and hunger for control. Each sister, each brother, becomes both a giver and a receiver after they have met and embraced one another with empty hands.

By Frederick R. Wilson
From Empty Hands, World Council of Churches
Geneva, Switzerland, 1982