kids

Learning to Glow and the Art of Kindness by Proxy

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One night at our art class, I handed out glow bracelets to all the young artists who came to draw with us.

A young girl wanted to light up ALL the bracelets at once

but I said “No”

I wanted to save them for the other kids, I explained.

“Oops!” she said, looking at me

and accidentally (on purpose) cracked one of the bracelets – causing it to glow.

She was testing my boundaries (as kids will do)..

and I smiled.

“Well, now you have to do a job for me,” I told her..

“Take that bracelet, go outside

and when you see someone walking alone – give it to them.”

The little girl jumped up and ran outside to complete her mission.

Inside, one of the kids looked at me and said,

“That’s a really nice thing you did.”

I said, “That’s a really nice thing Perla is going to do.”

 

Volunteering and the Art of Time Travel

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Evidence of time travel captured in the background…

Recently, a friend told me of an exercise he read about several years ago. It had to do with empowering oneself within the memories of childhood. Basically, if you had a bad experience when you were a child, you could somehow change the outcome of it. It is an act of imagination – the Now You returns to help the Little You.

An interesting idea.

Naturally, I found myself roaming through the memories of my own childhood

Now Me, looking for Little Me..

And then I stopped.

In a way, I am already doing this.

At the center where we volunteer..

I see myself in some of the kids in our art class.

The quiet ones.

The introverts.

The lonely and the ignored.

I seek them out

and I think that the words I would have spoken to Little Michele

are the same words that I share with them.

Time travel is possible, but it is not an act of the imagination..

it is an act of love.

 

Teachers, Art and Things That Last Forever

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When I was a child I would spend hours quietly playing by myself. Endlessly entertained by my wild imagination – I would stay up all night long drawing pictures. I was weird and solitary. My best friend was a dog.

School was difficult for intense, introverted kids like me.

It is so easy to become lost..

Sometimes, forever.

I don’t remember much from those days.. after all, that was over 40 years ago.

But I remember Mrs. Kelly – my elementary school art teacher.

Mrs. Kelly would sit next to me and quietly marvel over the drawings I made. Afterwards, she would put them in the glass display case in the hall outside her class – for all the world to see.

Now, volunteering to teach art to a group of inner city kids – I find myself drawn to the introverts. The quiet kids sitting alone.. trying to disappear into the background.  I sit next to them. I draw with them. I speak quietly with them – and I marvel over the drawings they make.

If you are a teacher and think you do not make a difference – you are wrong.

You make all the difference in the world.

The time you give to your students can literally change the course of their lives. Your kindness and encouragement will echo inside them, and will continue to touch the lives of others forever.

Your reach is further than you can imagine.

Thank you, Mrs. Kelly… wherever you are.

I never got the chance to tell you that I love you.

Catfish Kittens, Snakes and Exploding Hearts

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Last week at our art class there was a quiet little boy sitting by himself at a table.

He looked hurt somehow.. there was such a sad look on his face.

When it was getting close to the end, I coaxed him over and asked him to show me what he was drawing. Wow, what a talented artist he is! He made a beautiful picture of an octopus, a flower and a golden pyramid.

I showed him my drawing of a weird fish wearing a crown swimming next to a “catfish”… with the head and paws of a cat and the tail of a fish.

The little boy’s eyes got big.. his mouth twitched a little – but he didn’t say a word.

So, I asked him “Do you think catfish have kittens?”.. and the biggest smile on earth practically split his face in two. It lit up the room like the sun.

I gave that drawing to him.

When class was over, he stayed late to help us put away all the pencils and paper. I thanked him for helping us clean up.

Yesterday, the boy returned to draw with us again. When class was over, he handed me his drawing of a beautiful, polka-dotted snake and whispered, “This is for you.”

Sometimes I think my heart is going to explode.

Embracing Chaos and the Art of Open Doors

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My husband and I teach art to a group of inner city kids… but that’s not really what we do.

We do not have a traditional class where we see the same students every week.. sitting in designated places, teaching them a new lesson each week designed to progressively improve their drawing skills.

There are so many children.

Our class is growing constantly because we keep the door wide open.

I suppose I could simply shut the door and keep the size of the class to something more manageable..

But I would rather embrace the chaos than exclude a single child from the experience of making art.

So we squeeze together at the tables with our elbows bumping

passing out paper to anyone who joins us

sharing pencils, markers and crayons

drawing and talking together..

We may not be following a specific lesson plan

but these children are learning that when they want to express themselves

the door to art is always open.

The Art of the Extended Family

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My husband and I are returning to Copper Trails School to take part in their gifted arts night. I am looking forward to spending the evening drawing pictures with these talented young artists.

Having no children of my own, I must admit I was a little anxious the first time I found myself in a room surrounded by kids.

But the moment we sat down to draw together, all of that disappeared.

A wondrous thing happens when people create art together..

We discover that we are all family.

The Art of Being Unstoppable

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I volunteer to teach art to a group of inner city kids in downtown Phoenix. As we sit at a table drawing pictures together, the kids often bombard me with questions: How old are you? Are you married? Do you have kids? Do you live in a house? What’s your favorite color?

I answer every single question… simply and honestly.

One afternoon, I noticed a young girl leafing through the copy of The Secret Kingdom that I had brought to class with me.

“You made all these pictures?” She asked.

“Yes.” I replied.

She looked at me very seriously and asked, “Do you ever get frustrated when you’re drawing?”

I knelt down so I was face to face with her when I answered:

“Yes, I do… but I don’t let that stop me.”

Letter to a Young Artist

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Dear little boy,

You may not have noticed, but I have been watching you grow.

I remember the first time you came into our art class. You were shy and quiet. You walked to the back of the room and sat at a table by yourself. When I gave you a pencil and a piece of paper, you told me you couldn’t draw.

When you came back the following week, I was happy to see you. Again, when I gave you paper and a pencil, you told me you couldn’t draw. I sat down and asked you to tell me about something you liked to do – something you were good at. You told me you liked to play soccer.

“Were you a terrific soccer player the first time you tried?

“No.” you said.

“How did you get better?” I asked.

“I practiced.”

“It’s the same thing with drawing, ” I explained, “the more you draw, the better you’ll get.”

The following week you were back again. This time, you sat at a table next to my husband, Richard. I saw how intently you were watching him draw. You asked him to draw a truck. I watched as you tried to draw one by yourself.

The next time I saw you at class, you were sitting with the group, drawing everything in sight. The stuffed animals on the table, flowers and butterflies – even copying images from the mural on the wall. I could tell you had been practicing – a lot. I sat down next to you and told you how amazing your drawings were – really beautiful.

“Hey, I thought you said you couldn’t draw!” I teased.

You looked at me and smiled.

The following week we sat at a table and drew pictures together. I complimented your work – “Wow, that’s a great hand. Hands are hard to do – I still have trouble with them, sometimes.” You looked at my drawing and asked how I got to be so good. “Practice,” I said, “Years and years of practice.”

When class ended, you hugged me.

Dear little boy, you are an artist.

Soon our class will be over and you may never see me again..

but the gift you found within yourself will be with you always.

Still Life with Scorpion Hat

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My husband Richard and I volunteer each week to teach art to a group of inner city kids in downtown Phoenix. Sitting at a table, listening to music, talking and drawing with these beautiful children is a wonderful experience. We have been honing our skills doing still-life drawings. Not your typical bowls of fruit – instead, I have been bringing in a pile of strange objects and weird stuffed animals to draw. I encourage these young artists to choose what animal they’d like to draw – and then to use their imagination to create their own landscape – adding other characters, people and things to complete their masterpiece. Last night we got a little goofy after we finished our drawings, and ended up wearing most of the animals as hats. When I see the expression on that young artist wearing a stuffed scorpion on her head, it fills me with joy.