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 miraculous!
        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 all departments.
        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!