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A Brother’s Sacrifice

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village in Germany, there lived a family with eighteen children. Despite a seemingly hopeless situation, two brothers shared a dream to pursue their talent for art. But they knew that the family’s financial condition was too tight to pay for their studies.

The two boys came up with their own solution. They would toss a coin. The loser would go into the nearby mines and support his brother attending art academy. Then that brother, at the end of his studies, would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by labouring in the mines.

So one brother went to the art academy, while the other went into the dangerous mines. After four years, the young artist returned to his village and family. There was a triumphant homecoming dinner. The artist rose from the table to drink a toast  to his beloved brother for his years of sacrifice. His closing words were, ‘And now, Albert, it is your turn. Now you can go to the academy to pursue your dream, and I will support you.’

Albert sat there, tears streaming down his face, shaking his lowered  head while he sobbed and repeated over and over, ‘No…no…no!’

Finally Albert rose and wiped the tears from his eyes. He looked down the long table, and, holding his hands out in front of him, said softly, ‘No brother, it is too late for me to go. Look…look at what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been crushed at least once, and I’ve been suffering from arthritis so badly that I cannot even hold a wine glass to return to your toast, much less make delicate lines on canvas with a pen or brush. No, brother, for me, it is too late.’

Then one day, to pay homage to his brother Albert for that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Dürer painstakingly drew his tortured hands, with palms together and crooked fingers pointing skywards. He called this powerful drawing simply Hands, but people soon opened their hearts to the masterpiece and renamed it. They called his tribute of love The Praying Hands.

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