A Simple Handshake
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by Frank Shortt
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Growing up in Southwestern Virginia, in a very small community, I gained my first experience
in the art of hand-shaking.
The country citizens who attended our small church at Grimsleyville
were especially happy to see each other on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. The first thing they did upon meeting was to shake
each other’s hands and say, “God bless you”! This was no ordinary handshake! It usually consisted of someone taking hold of your hand
in a vice-like grip (male or female) and pumping it several times until your teeth began to rattle. Their hands usually felt like
a rasp from shelling corn, tying oats, and husking out the corn crop sans gloves. Their grips were magnified greatly from milking
several cows morning and night.
My dad, Edward Shortt, had a definite firm hand. He raised
ten of us children with that firm hand. As dad went about doing business, his reputation, of being honest and upright preceded him.
He was able to borrow money from the local bankers with only a handshake. In this lawless generation, this would be nothing less than
While in the USAF in the 1960’s, I encountered men of all ethnic groups and
cultures. One old time sergeant taught me the importance of a firm handshake. He said, “Your handshake reflects your determination,
and another thing, a firm handshake shows whether or not you really are glad to meet the other fellow. Another thing that a good handshake
does is show our character.” This has proven true throughout my life.
Upon entering civilian
life, I began working for a grinding wheel manufacturer as a shipping clerk. The bosses who had a firm handshake were the most likely
to chew you out if the work was not done according to their specifications. The ones with the limp handshake were known as bosses
that you could slide a little with, or on the other hand, they would depend on other bosses to do their dirty work. The limp-handed
bosses were more likely to be sneaky about their operations.
Later, working at the School
Department, I encountered bosses whose handshakes were as firm as a vice. I also encountered bosses who, when you shook their hand,
it felt like a dead fish. These ‘dead fish’ individuals were the most sneaky, conniving, do-nothing people I have ever met. Their
whole days were spent seeing what they could get away with. Also, they were the ones most likely to underhandedly cause friction in
I was recently invited to be the featured speaker at a sixth-grade promotional
event. I based my talk on Abraham Lincoln, a definite firm hand-shaker, and how he rose up from poverty to become president of the
United States. His beginnings were very humble, being afforded no educational opportunities, but through perseverance and self-education,
he attained a degree in law. I also used myself as an example of not having much formal education, but through reading and applying
what I read, I was able to provide for my family, attain an informal education, and go on to write for a local newspaper, an online
magazine, as well as, three college journals. A firm handshake was a great asset to me throughout my several careers.
As the ceremonies at the school progressed, awards were given to the more sincere students. I noticed as the award recipients received
their awards, they came by the principal, their teachers, and me. Each successful student had a nice firm handshake. Later, promotional
certificates were given to each of the students moving on to Seventh grade. I noticed that the students who had not gained any awards,
only the promotional certificate, had a less firm handshake. Isn’t it time to begin showing our children early on how to shake hands
properly? This could also be a great lesson for some adults!