Sleight of Hand

by Robin W. Dawes
Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Sleight of Hand

The greatest lesson in courage I have ever learned was at the hands — literally — of an 8-year-old boy.

About ten years ago I was invited to present a magic lesson to a group of gifted elementary-school children. I looked forward to the opportunity because my own interest in conjuring and sleight of hand was kindled at a very young age and I hoped to pass it along to another generation.

Each of the children was supplied with a small package of necessary props, including playing cards, pencils, paper clips, and rubber bands. The magic trick with the rubber bands involved looping a band over two fingers and causing it to ‘magically’ jump to two different fingers. After I taught the children the workings of this trick, I circulated through the group to make sure that everyone understood the method. One boy came up to me and said “My little brother is having some trouble with this trick.”

I turned to help the younger boy, and I was shocked to see the cause of his difficulty: each of his hands had only two fingers and a thumb, and even those were twisted at awkward angles. I looked from his hands to his face, expecting to see anger and frustration … and saw only happiness and hope. I worked with him for five minutes with the rubber bands, and we eventually found a way to make the trick work for him — more by his determination than by any cleverness on my part.

Throughout the remainder of the class I kept my eye on this little boy. I knew that some of the more complex tricks would present him with even greater challenges than the first one had. He tried everything, and I was amazed to see how well he was able to adapt the manipulations to his own capabilities. He never lost his smile, and he never showed any disappointment over the things he simply could not do.

When I start to chafe at the limitations life imposes, I think of that little boy and his indomitable enthusiasm. I never learned his name, but I’ll never forget him.

Originally published as HeroicStories #12 on May 29, 1999
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.

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