kindness

Cat Portraits and the Art of Being Selfless

“Portrait of Munchkin Giggle-Sprinkles” by Michele Bledsoe

 

Recently, I put aside my work in progress..

and ignored a looming deadline

to pour myself into a special request –

A portrait of my sister’s beloved cat

who passed away last year.

This is what art is all about.

Not the galleries and the exhibits.

Not the personal attention

and public exposure…

it’s about the gift

and what you choose to do with it.

 

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Snowmen, Ice Cream Cones and the Art of Doing the Best You Can

Me and Anna under the rainbow..

 

My husband and I volunteer as art teachers

for a group of inner city kids in downtown Phoenix.

One evening, we were joined by a particularly shy little girl.

Sitting in front of a blank piece of paper,

she whispered that she couldn’t think of anything to draw.

I asked her if there was something she wanted me to draw.

“A snowman!” she said, touching the picture of Olaf on her t-shirt.

“Okay,” I said – rising to the challenge..

“I never drew him before, but I am going to do the best I can.”

The girl watched me intently.

A few minutes later, I showed the little girl my drawing.

Smiling, she looked down at her blank piece of paper

and announced with great conviction,

“I am going to draw an ice cream cone. I never drew one before

but I am going to do the best I can.”

She drew a wonderful ice cream cone, covered in sprinkles with a cherry on top..

and after that, she drew the picture you see above.

I thanked her

and then I got something in my eye.

Sowing Seeds and the Art of Sharing Knowledge

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“The Church of Instinct”, “As Above So Below” and “From the Old House” by Michele Bledsoe

 

First and foremost, I am a painter..

but I am other things as well.

 

I have learned a lot

throughout the course of my life..

cultivating valuable skills

that I have worked hard to accumulate.

Through trial and error

I have gained experience..

And with years of practice

I’ve learned to do things

that I used to think were

miles beyond my capabilities.

 

I suppose I could hold a series of costly workshops

on a number of  topics..

everything from social media marketing

to formatting and publishing ebooks.

 

Or maybe I could hoard my knowledge

and use these skills for myself alone.

 

Instead,

I went in a different direction..

choosing to focus more on

what good can I do through sharing my various gifts

rather than how much money I can make

selling them.

 

So now I spend my days

working with young adults within the autism spectrum..

teaching them

everything I’ve learned.

 

Maybe that’s not the path

to making myself a ton of money..

but by sowing these seeds

and watching my students grow

I am already rich beyond measure.

 

 

An Eclipse, A Welding Helmet and the Kindness of Casual Acquaintances

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Detail from “In the Land of the Tree People…” by Michele Bledsoe

Many years ago I was the manager of an outlet store in Indiana. It was surrounded by a handful of other businesses: A liquor store, a laundromat, a sandwich place… and a funeral parlor.

The two brothers who owned the funeral parlor were frequent customers and I always treated them with great kindness and respect. Such a noble profession, to care for the dead. The brothers would often remark that people usually became very uncomfortable around them when they found out what kind of work they did.

I was familiar with the brothers’ regular purchases and often had them waiting on the counter when they walked in. If one of their favorite items was on sale, I would set it aside to ensure they would not miss out on the discount.

Since I was not in need of funeral services, they were always trying to find another way to return my kindness.

Once, while driving the hearse, one brother stopped a funeral procession.. wanting to let my car cut in front. I waved frantically at him to keep going.

Around this time, an amazing event was about to occur: A total eclipse of the sun.

The news was filled with constant eye-safety reminders, instructions on how to view the eclipse, and serious warnings not to look directly at the sun.

Desperately, I wanted to see the eclipse – to watch this once in a lifetime experience unfold! I could not contain my excitement. The eclipse was all I could talk about. The two brothers listened to me rant about it for days.

I was at work when the eclipse occurred. The streets were empty. People were probably trying to avoid accidentally exposing themselves to potential retina damage or blindness.

But, I could not stay inside. I left the counter and stepped out into the deserted parking lot.

I kept my head down. My fists clenched at my sides. I was breathing hard. The air had a weird grainy quality like an old newspaper. I had to fight the urge to look up.

Suddenly, across the parking lot, I heard voices yelling my name.

It was the two brothers from the funeral parlor. They were running towards me, carrying a welder’s helmet.

Before I could say a word, they thrust the welder’s helmet on my head and told me to look up. I was trembling all over. My legs were weak.  I thought I would pass out. So there we stood in the middle of the parking lot: one brother behind me, holding me up – and the other in front of me, holding the huge helmet on my head.

I saw it all.

It was terrifying and beautiful.

I suppose if I had died right there in the parking lot, the two brothers would have treated my remains with exceptional love and care.

Small Moments and the Art of Tremendous Consequences

"Metamorphosis" by Michele Bledsoe

“Metamorphosis” by Michele Bledsoe

I remember making a book when I was little.

I vaguely recall the story had something to do with a family of animals living near a beach.

I made drawings of weird dog-like creatures on pieces of paper that I folded to look like pages.

When I showed it to my grandfather

He knelt down so we were face-to-face

And looking directly into my eyes

He said to me:

“Michele, you have a gift from God.”

 

Believe me, the drawing wasn’t THAT good…

Sure, I drew recognizable objects

But that’s a far cry from being like some child prodigy drawing like Michelangelo at the age of 4.

 

Did he see something I didn’t?

Was it a glimpse of the artist I would become..

or was it something else?

 

My husband I volunteer to teach art

To a group of inner city kids in downtown Phoenix.

A couple of days ago

Something beautiful happened.

 

Surrounded by kids,

talking and drawing together

at a crowded table..

I saw a small boy.

so small, and quiet

he practically disappeared.

His tiny head was bent down

intensely focused

on the drawing in front of him.

 

I glanced at what he was working on

and I felt time stop.

All the chaos in the room

faded into the background.

There was something different about this child.

Something rare and beautiful.

I saw it.

Felt it.

And in that

seemingly small and insignificant moment..

I understood that there was something tremendous

in consequence

that brought me here.

 

“That is a great brontosaurus, “I told him

“and what a terrific volcano!”

The boy looked up..

clearly surprised that I noticed him..

that I was talking to him.

“You draw really well,” I continued

“I can see your wonderful imagination

in your drawings.”

With a tiny smile, and light in his eyes

The boy whispered. “Thank you.”

I asked him his name..

“Jesus.” He replied.

I leaned in real close so we were face to face..

And looking directly into his eyes, I said,

“Jesus, you have a gift from God.”

The Return of Boo Radley

A random act of artistic kindness..

The Secret Kingdom

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In “To Kill A Mockingbird”, Boo Radley left gifts for Jem and Scout in the knothole of an old, oak tree.  He wanted the children to be aware of his presence, to understand that he cared for them, and to know that he was watching out for them.

Now, I am going to tell you a story that will explain why I call this painting “The Return of Boo Radley”.

Once upon a time I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with my dog, Gunther. In the center of the complex, there was a large grassy area surrounding a sandbox where the kids could play.  Scattered on the ground, I would find some of the largest and most beautiful pinecones I had ever seen. Whenever I took Gunther for a walk, I would grab a couple and bring them back to my apartment to marvel over.

One day, I noticed a little girl…

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