I did not have a lesson planned for the night. I had a long day where nothing seemed to go my way. I was going to blow off going to the shelter. I was tired, almost out of gasoline, and had no idea what activity I would bring the women. But there was something that pulled me there that night. I decided to show up with tempera paints, sponges, and large sheets of white paper for the women to paint anything they chose. I share with you some of their work. A true testimony on how the arts presents itself to the needs of the soul.
“A woman without a friend”
I don’t really have any friends. I am sad about it but not afraid. I find it kind of interesting really. I never let anyone in my life. This painting is about what it’s like to be me. There is a heart with love trying to get into it but it won’t pierce through. There is a symbol that I created in the corner that stands for contempt. I say that because I disrespect love.
This painting is about going home. In it my daughter and me are running home as fast as we can. The sun is smiling on us saying “welcome home!”.
My painting is a map of my life. There are roads I have traveled and stumbling blocks. Some roads are dead ends. There are nightclubs where I would dance with sly moves and other places I shouldn’t be in. But now I am on a path that leads to a beautiful forest. I think it is perfect how God spaces the trees apart and decides where
the ponds go. When things get crazy here and people are yelling at each other I think of sleeping between tress by water. The world is as beautiful as you can imagine it
“Angels in the outfield”
Last night, along with white canvasses, half empty tubes of paint and tired brushes, I brought glitter for the women to work with. “What should we do with it?” they asked. “Anything” I said. They smiled crooked smiles and laughed out loud, looking at one another. At first they were not quite sure what to do. The jars sat in the middle of the table like party favors waiting to be won. I was the first to open the jar of silver. I pinched the glitter and spread it over the ocean waves on my canvas. I passed the jar to the woman on my right and she did the same. Another woman opened the emerald green to adorn the leaves on her oak tree. A woman named Lucy sprinkled glitter over her entire canvas like a third grader might do. All at once I saw the women as the children they once were, living in a time that was perhaps easier for them. A time before addictions set in, a time when they played with baby dolls without the threat of losing custody. A time when they weren’t so homeless.
As the women children worked they blew excess glitter from their paper into the air. It reminded me of stars in the night sky—stars that I could touch. As I reached out to touch them, I looked at the women and made wishes for them. I wished so many things for them. I wished they would sleep well that night, despite the fighting on the streets outside the barred windows, I wished they would be given fresh fruit for breakfast instead of stale bagels. I wished they had enough money to visit the dentist. I wished that strangers would be kind to them and that empathy was real.
By the time I left the glitter was everywhere, in the cracks of the linoleum floor, in my iced tea, on my face, and in my hair. I went to sleep that night tired from all my wishing.
I wake up in the morning with glitter on my pillow, I imagine the women did too– and the distance between us isn’t so far apart.