This week's blog is written by our friend, fellow traveler, and blogger Michelle Mayes! Be sure to check out her other blog posts at https://themayesofchrist.com/ for everything from mental health advocacy to travel reflections. You can also check out Michelle's travels and life updates on Instagram @mitchmayes95!
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This blog was originally posted on May 1, 2020.
This past week was Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the 50th anniversary of Earth
Day. As I thought about the significance of both days, I was reminded of an activity I
took part in last October.
Photo credit: visitberlin.de by Sabrina Mehlitz
When I was in Berlin last October, I was asked to take part in the Berlin Handshape
Project. The Berlin Handshape Project commemorated the 30-year anniversary of the
fall of the Berlin Wall. 10,957 handshapes were formed – one for each date between
November 9, 1989, and November 9, 2019. You may be asking, “What is a
handshape?” A handshape is a clay imprint of two people shaking hands. The
projected connected over 20,000 people and built the first monument to human
The project sought to explore the connection between humans. The design of the
project was supposed to help recognize that we are all connected despite our
differences. Each hand shape represents a day, a connection, and a conversation that
took place between strangers. The Berlin Handshape website puts it this way, “Berlin
Handshape is a symbol of our collective aspiration for a better world. A world which
brings people together. A world where people connect and understand each other. A
world we want to live in.”
Photo credit: Michelle Mayes
I was so excited to be a part of this project! I met some of the project team members at
The Circus Hostel’s bar. They explained the project to me, and I immediately connected
with its message and historic significance. As I sat talking with them, they grabbed a
guy walking into the bar, and explained the project to him as well. He too agreed to
participate in the project. At that point we were introduced.
His name was Duncan, and he was from Australia. He was passing through Berlin with
friends while traveling across Europe for a few weeks. We both connected over our love
of The Circus Hostel’s home brewed pilsner beer. (Y’all it really was the bomb) We
shared a pint of brew, and then shook hands with clay in between our grasp. Again, I
love the way the Berlin Handshape Project talks about the handshake with the clay,
“...two strangers then shake hands with a ball of clay, a piece of earth, between the
hands. This forms a unique shape – a lasting impression- one of the many clay symbols
of human connection that together make up the Berlin Hand Shape.”
After our handshake, the cay mold was sealed away, and Duncan and I were given little
cards of our remembered connection through the project. The card contained our first
names, our shared connection, and the date.
All 10,957 handshapes were put on display on November 9, 2019, to commemorate the
fall of the Berlin Wall (exactly 30 years to the date). The art installation was called “The Monument to Human Connection.” Today the collection, and the individual handshakes,
can be seen online.
Holocaust Remembrance Day and Earth Day both remind me of our shared human
connection. What it has been, and what it could be. In a world full of pain, violence, and
destruction it is important to remember what brings us all together. The basic human
connection we all share. My faith has taught me to value life. I pray as a collective
whole, as the human race, despite or differences, we may all learn to value each other.
To find out more information about the project, and how you can participate visit The
Berlin Handshape website.
Photo credit: https://stories.handshape.berlin/handshape-archive