Blessings at Your Fingertips
***** 5 stars – This Year’s Feel Good Book, Filled with Reminders of Our Blessings
Nandell Palmer’s “Blessings at Your Fingertips” starts with a simple idea and expands from talking about our fingertips to filling our hearts with love, appreciation, and a desire to do more for our fellow human beings. Within the first few pages, I was so engrossed with this book, thoroughly resonating with its message, my heart filling with joy, that had life not intervened, I could have read it all day until I had finished. But life has its inconveniences, and Palmer even has a chapter talking about how we should not be frustrated by being inconvenienced—that person you may not want to ask over for Christmas Dinner but feel you should so he isn’t alone can turn out to be a blessing to your entire family. Palmer knows—it’s happened to him.
The book’s title is the heart of Palmer’s message. He explains how we can use the simple things at our fingertips to advance our greatness and joy. Of our body parts, we pay a lot of attention to our hearts and brains, even our biceps, but we should not discount our fingertips—they can write a book on a typewriter for us, they can play a musical instrument, they sewed the biblical Joseph’s coat of many colors, and they are what Jesus used to write in the sand to save a woman’s life. We pass our blessings onto others by using our fingertips, to cook a meal, to bathe someone, to write a thank you note. Palmer gives us numerous examples of such blessings throughout his book, making us see the world in new and brighter ways.
Ms. Martin, Palmer’s fourth-grade teacher, exemplifies what blessings can come simply from using our fingertips. Palmer can recall Ms. Martin’s class vividly. He remembers the name of every one of his fellow fourth-grade students—something he cannot do from his other classes. Why does he remember their names? Because Ms. Martin made each of her students feel important. How? By an act so simple as using her fingertips to take a piece of chalk and write one student’s name on the blackboard each day, celebrating that student as the day’s king or queen. This simple action made the students anticipate who would be the celebrated student each day, and each student got his or her name on the board at least three times during the school year. No student was passed over, and hardly anyone was ever absent from school because no one wanted to miss the day he or she would be celebrated. Where Ms. Martin found the wisdom to do this simple activity—Palmer searched and could find no other example of a teacher ever doing so—is unknown, but what it did was create great self-esteem in her students. That simple act changed the lives of her students, and in turn allowed those students to go about touching numerous more lives. Had Ms. Martin not taught the author self-esteem, perhaps he would not have written “Blessings at Your Fingertips” which doubtless will touch countless lives itself, and his fellow students from that class have gone on to pay dividends by being blessings to others simply by Ms. Martin’s daily act.
Palmer’s own kindness is apparent throughout this book, and the reader cannot help but like him immensely. One example of his generous heart is how he decided to express his appreciation to Ms. Martin in a special way when he was an adult; rather than giving her a physical or monetary gift, he pondered how best to show his appreciation. Ultimately, he launched his personal campaign to collect congratulatory letters for her from every continent, letters he read to her at a reception held in her honor in Kingston, Jamaica. Congratulations were received from Queen Elizabeth, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, the governor and senators of Washington State, scientists in Antarctica, and educators from around the globe including Canada, Australia, Thailand and Peru.
The magic of “Blessings at Your Fingertips” hardly ends there. Palmer tells numerous stories, both personal and from people he knows, about blessings that have come into their lives from generosity and love. He tells of how he and his wife adopted his niece’s three children when she died, and the inconceivable blessings that have resulted. My favorite story in the book is when his pastor gave him a dollar for answering a question correctly during a sermon. Palmer decided he would use the dollar as seed money to make it multiply. After brainstorming about possible ways to do so with his sons, he bought some chicken nuggets from Wendy’s, which he asked his friend to buy from him for $5. He used that $5 to buy some items at the dollar store, which he then resold. As he told people what he was doing, they became interested in buying things from him until he had $141 dollars, which he presented back to his pastor within a two-week period. The results, as Palmer explains in more detail in the book, were an unexpected windfall of money for his friend who made the first purchase, and for Palmer, unexpected and fabulous blessings. With such intriguing stories, you can understand why I found it hard to put down this book.
Of course, no book is perfect; here and there are some sentences which will sound awkward to the American reader’s ears—probably owing to some language usage variation since Palmer is Jamaican by birth, but the reader will barely notice since the meaning behind the words makes them read like nuggets of gold. Or perhaps I should say diamond nuggets. Palmer also has a chapter on how to snatch back the diamond nuggets from your past. Even though some events may appear to be negative, we can find the good in them. Palmer has a powerful chapter entitled, “What Does Forgiveness Have to Do with Breast Milk” that makes us consider, even if our mother or another person neglected or hurt us, that they also showed us love—our mothers carried us in their wombs, making sure nothing happened to us; they fed us with their very own breast milk—these are all demonstrations of love. I have had the privilege to witness in person Palmer speak to an audience about forgiveness, an experience that can bring grown men to tears.
This book review cannot begin to mention all the nuggets of gold Palmer includes in his book. Other great stories, filled with good advice, explain to us the true value of money and how we can use it for our benefit, how some bedbugs brought a group of diverse people together, and how to reach out with love to people, including your family members, only to find that the love multiplies and comes back to you.
Instead of just giving us chicken soup for the soul, Palmer, as in the proverb about not giving a man a fish but teaching him how to fish, teaches us to look at our fingertips, to consider what they are capable of accomplishing, to feel good about ourselves and to feel good about other people, so good that when the book is finished, we are inspired to go out into the world and make a difference, whether it’s by adopting a child, feeding the homeless, or simply giving a stranger a smile. “Blessings at Your Fingertips” is, indeed, the feel good book of the year.
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