Left-handed Airmen overcome unique challenges

Airman Larissa Greatwood
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Wednesday was “Inter-national Left-Hander’s Day” to honor those who smudge their papers and awkwardly bump elbows with righties. It’s a day to spread awareness of the struggles of being left-handed, and also encourages right-handed people to try doing daily tasks with their left hand.
People who are predominately left-handed live in a right-handed world. It may not be prevalent to some how much of a struggle it can be, and even some lefties forget because of adaptation over time. There are simple tools the average person may use on a daily basis. A computer mouse, for example, is usually used with the right hand.
Some predominately left-hander’s have either adapted to using right-handed appliances with their left hand or grow accustom to using their right hand altogether.
“I play sports predominantly right-handed,” said Capt. David Weller, 86th Medical Operations Squadron Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program manager. “I catch and bat right-handed. I used to do martial arts and always wanted to punch with my right hand even though my left hand is stronger. The thing that throws people off is that I throw a Frisbee with my left hand.”
For left-handed military members, there are additional adjustments to be made aside from the daily struggles. They can naturally become used to these things and may not even realize they’re conforming.
“A lot of the weapons are designed for right-handed people,” Weller said. “A left-handed person can have their weapon modified to accommodate, but a lot of people have had to adjust to doing things right-handed. Our uniforms have a pen pocket on the left sleeve to make it easier for right-handed people to grab their pens.”
There are many resources online that allow lefties to share their experiences going through school. Even surveys are used to further help left-handed children get the assistance needed in different phases of their education, whether learning how to write, or not being seated on the right of a right-handed person as to eliminate the chances of bumping elbows.
“Growing up, all the desks and scissors were built for right-handed people,” Weller said. “Writing and drawing was especially hard because I couldn’t keep the ridge of my left hand off the paper, so all my work came out smudgy. Lefties learn to conform to certain tasks that were made for right-handed people.
“A lot of teachers didn’t know how to teach someone who is left-handed how to write,” Weller continued. “They struggled to figure that out. I see that now because my kids are left-handed and my wife struggles to show them how to do things with pencils and pens. My daughter complains about the can opener being made for people who are right-handed.”
Being left-handed does not only have minor inconveniences. Studies have shown your dominant hand can have an effect on health. According to child and adolescent psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center, “40 percent of those with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder are left-handed.”
“In the mental-health world, we like to say that only left-handed people are in their right mind because left-handed people use the right side of their brain,” Weller joked. “Also, there’s an increase prevalence of mental illness among left-handed people. It’s hard to say why, but many tests show a greater number of mental illnesses in those who are left-handed as opposed to right-handed.”
Many forefathers are left-handed to include Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and even the current Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama.
It just goes to show that no matter the preferred hand, the common denominator amongst them all is the mission. Despite the minor obstacles some may face, they continue to be capable of excellence in
all they do.