Sunday, April 05, 2015

That Moment: An Easter Blog

Photo description: Picture of sky and clouds with the words, "Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory." written in varying fonts over them. From
I had a teacher in Grade 4. I wonder if she knows how clearly I remember her? And of all the moments that come to mind, from time to time, when memory pops up to poison my day, one of them is of her. We, as a class, were to draw something, all of us sat at our desks working away at our pictures. I am not an artist. I know that. I have always known that. Even then, I knew that. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying the act of creation, I still like to doodle, I still like to draw. That she didn't take from me. But she tried.

She knew that I wasn't one of the popular kids. She knew that my weight and my awkwardness and my barely hidden differences made me the target of many and the friend of few. She knew that. Yet she chose, that day we sat drawing, to come to my desk, look at my drawing and laugh out loud. She whipped the paper from my desk and showed it to the class, telling them that "this is how NOT to do this assignment." The class didn't need encouragement to laugh at me, this is a skill that was well oiled. So they did. And I felt the humiliation rise from my stomach, to my heart, to my memory. Where it still resides. Where it waits to visit me, from time to time.

She choose to hurt me.

And I remember her.

I wonder if she ever knew that I have carried that moment with me, every day since?

I wonder if it would matter to her.

I had a teacher in Grade 5. I have complex memories of him. He, I later discovered, did horribly bad and completely unforgivable things to some of my classmates. I never knew. I never would have guessed. I was shocked when the revelations came. I was shocked because he once showed a kindness to me. Maybe 'kindness' isn't the right word. He noticed a peculiar talent of mine. This moment is so private that I'd rather not tell you what he saw in me. I just want you to know that he saw something in me, something special and unique and valuable. Something that turned out to be a skill and a talent that I would use my entire life, maybe, and most probably, because he noticed it, he spoke it aloud. He made me aware of it.

I remember it clearly, my mother was in the school, I don't remember why, and when he saw her, he pulled me out of the classroom. I stood beside him as he called to her as she was walking towards one of the exits. My mother turned, angry at being interrupted, and she walked her angry walk towards us. He said, "Mrs. Hingsburger, I want to tell you that your son has a wonderful and unique talent, I've seen it, it will serve him well." He then went on to tell her, at some length. I stood there shocked and shaken. Much more so than what happened the year before - after all I was used to ridicule and humiliation. I don't remember, at any time before, anyone other than Grandma Hingsburger, speaking of me in glowing terms, in hopeful terms. I don't remember my future being talked about as one of possibilities. One of hope.

He chose to build me up.

And I remember him.

I wonder if he knows that I have carried that moment with me, every day since?

I wonder if it would matter to him.

Today is Easter Sunday.

Today is about resurrection and rebirth and hope.

It is about shaking off the darkness and walking into light.

That moment in the hallway, hearing words spoken of me as a boy with possibilities, I return to that moment when I need encouragement, when I'm feeling defeated, when I mistrust my self. I hear those words swirl around me now, as I did then. It was my first understanding of 'gospel,' a word that comes from the Old English, meaning 'good news.'

"Good news, Mrs. Hingsburger, your boy has a gift."

"Good news, Dave, you have a future."

I remember this more and more as I get older. The surprise that I have that that feeling of pride that I felt, on hearing him speak of me differently than any one else ever did, doesn't go away. He planted this moment in my heart and in my mind. He gave me a memory that would serve me and inspire me and bring me hope right into my sixties, and, undoubtedly for the rest of my life. I know the power of that.

I think of this now because I am in the position, as we all are, to create those moments for others. To try to give messages to people, now, that will serve them in the way mine has served me. I explode with joy at the accomplishments of those around me. I want them, to notice, really notice what they have done. People these days are so busy that they don't even notice their accomplishments, they don't even know that what they know is unique to them.

I want them to see themselves the way that he saw me.

As whole.

As unique.

As talented.

I want them to have a memory inside them, that will give them the power to breath life back into hope, to rekindle the flames of passion, to resurrect their belief in themselves.

Because it mattered to me.

That moment.





Unknown said...

This blog has awakened so many deeply embarrassing moments from my early school days - and one or two glowing memories too. And yes, both kinds of memories have stayed with me - rearing their ugly, or beautiful heads from time to time. Do something, say something, tell someone only of the good you see in them, build them up - never knock anyone down, it can have lasting effects.

Anonymous said...

Happy Easter to you and Joe! Its amazing how much certain people have an inpact and they probably don't even realize it. Thank you for reminding me of the impact that I might have on people too.


Anonymous said...

Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you."

We are still failing to do that, and need to be constantly reminded lo these two thousand years later.

But He meant it, and it is the way out. One of your teachers tried - and succeeded, whatever else he might have been.

The other teacher didn't even try, went out of her way to hurt a CHILD. Shame on her and her ilk.

I have a lot of memories of the, "She's bright - what the heck do we do with her?" kind. I wish I had one of those strong positive ones.

I eventually took what I wanted, and didn't let anyone see that I felt like an impostor half the time (I now know everyone does this). But have encouraged my children the way I wish I had been encouraged, and have tried to love them as much as I was loved.

Happy Easter, Dave and Joe. He is risen.


clairesmum said...

Happy Easter to you and Joe! Thank you for sharing your experiences and reflections with us. You are a teacher for me, although we have never met in person.

Anonymous said...

I hope you had a Happy Easter Dave and Joe.

Mel Baggs said...

For me, a moment like that happened when a friend encouraged me to try painting again. She said it didn't matter that I had little technical skill, that my creativity would more than make up for it.

I joined a group of self-taught artists with developmental disabilities. I've sold paintings. I've been in galleries with people i'd never imagined they'd put my work next to as if it was just as good.

I remember shwoing my friend the ifrst few paintings i'd made after her encouragement. She said "If what I said is all it took to bring all that creativity out of you, then keep creating!"

And I know people like my work. I know because they do the double-take. They start out with the insincere cheery "good job!" and then their voice fades away for a second, they look nervous, then they ask me if I eslll any of my work because they know people who would buy it, or they ask if I've been in galleries.

And as much as that double-take comes from condescension? It also makes me feel really good. That I've broken through their dishonest patronizing shell and made them admit that they actually like my work.

Anyway, I almost never painted again because of a horrible experience with a paining teacher who would paint my paintings for me and have me sign my name to them, all the while praising the rest of he class for their skills. She never gave me one word of praise, and I took to hiding in the bathroom. I was ashamed. I thought what she was doing to me was my fault, that I was defective and bad and wrong.

I wanted to paint cats. She told me that I could only do that once I'd done landscapes and flowers, and that any animal I painted had to be done in a realistic fashion such that you could see every hair on the animal's body.

When I started painting again in my twenties, I used acrylic, not oil. i painted with my fingers, not brushes. And I painted lots, and lots, and lots, of cats.

I don't paint cats realistically. I probably never will. I paint what's inside the cat, I paint the flow of motion through the cat, I paint kinesthetically more than visually.

And yet more than once people have accurately recognized their own cats in my paintings, because my strong points involve conveying the personality of the cat through motion, which is how I perceive the world in the first place.

And if my friend hadn't given me that lecture about creativity without technical skill giving you much more to work with than technical skill without creativity... I might never have started painting again.

And I'm someone who has to create, it's like a fire that burns through me and burns me if I can't use it.

So she gave me an amazing gift that day, and that will continue to give me that feeling the rest of my life. That I'm not worse than people who paint in a more standard fashion, and that in fact there are things about the way I paint that are unique to me and would be wrecked if I were to try to paint the "normal" ways, or tried to go to art school, or anything like that.

Not that there's anything wrong with people who have a lot of technical skill, paint in more conventional ways, or go to art school -- but there's nothing wrong with me, either, in fact there's an awful lot right with my painting skills as they are, and as they continue to develop.