Last week I visited a clinic to update my vaccines before returning to Africa. Because I was in a hurry and forgot to look at a map, I parked in the main parking lot at a huge medical complex, knowing I could be directed on where to go once I was inside. We ended up needing to cross through some hallways and take a couple of elevators, but within a few minutes, we were there.
The main lobby of the hospital is large and impressive, but the hallways we took were really more for staff. There was a stark contrast as we entered a completely utilitarian, narrow maze. After the first turn, Hudson yelled out, "Look Mom! It's like an ocean!" It was a large, framed print on the wall, a somewhat commonplace scene of flowers, something you'd find in a budget hotel. But Hudson was impressed.
As we walked the kids commented on several more framed prints, placed throughout this otherwise bland stretch of walkway and florescent light. More flowers, some boats, more and more flowers. These paintings were not something special per se, but in their own simple way, they filled a purpose. I smiled at the thought that someone must have petitioned for them to be there, someone must have thought that hallway needed some kind of beauty. And it made my kids really happy.
I grew up very lonely, with a father who was always there and never present, a mother who was very, very unhappy. They were both quite retired from the idea of parenting by the time I arrived, and I didn't have siblings at home to keep me company. We lived in the country away from all my friends, and I was very, very alone, and left alone nearly all the time. I learned to be resourceful. I loved to read and read voraciously from an early age. I was never really alone with weekly library visits and 1,000 worlds and people to know. Books, quite honestly, were my salvation. They fed and nourished my mind and my imagination. I am so very, very grateful that such a gift- libraries filled with books- was available to me.
This is one of the reasons I am so thrilled to invest in the work of Poetice. People think the idea of an arts camp for Zambian orphans sounds nice, a way to do some good and make a little difference. I know that providing arts education for orphans, a program fueled by truth and community and hope is salvation in every sense of the word, a healing and a filling of the soul richer than we could ever estimate.
When a child grows up in extreme poverty, coupled with the loss of one or both of their parents, life is very limited and they are left extremely vulnerable. When Poetice provides a safe community in which to belong, provides truth and education and an introduction into the creative arts these children are given not a hobby but a revelation. They are taught that they are valuable and talented. They are invited into something beautiful, and discover they have beauty to offer the world. It also, quite frankly, gives them something to do, something to press into, something to work at, something to achieve.
This all sounds very expressive and flowery, but I promise you, it is true. I had a hard childhood, but happened to be born in a place where I had access to free education, free books, opportunities. I am wholeheartedly invested in offering opportunities to children who otherwise receive very few chances to dream.
Creativity is a light that can break through cracks in the darkest of places. Art is a peaceful protest against the things that press to dull our senses and break us down. The discipline of making art teaches children to see, to expect. It equips them to recognize and bring out beauty even in bleak places, especially in bleak places.
Investing in these children, in their souls, their minds, their creativity, instills dignity and affirms purpose. This ministry sends the message that we are more than a mouth that needs food, and that there are foods more and greater than that which feeds the body alone.
Participating in the arts is a holy act of kinship with our Creator, and we should never, ever underestimate its power to heal, to invite, to inspire and direct, and to promote real change.