Today I taught my first class called “Creative Expression” to four senior residents at a local retirement community. Although the class got off to a late start with confusion about the time and if the class was cancelled, four women came to take my class.
I’ve worked before with foster children in expressing their feelings but never with the elderly. I was in for a pleasant surprise. Each woman brought their preconceived idea about what they could draw and what “art” was. When I asked them to draw what the four main emotions: mad, bad, sad and glad looked like to them “Susan” said, “I don’t think I want to do that.” She started pushing back her chair from the table. I told her that it didn’t have to be anything in particular. It could just be a color. She nodded and said, she could do that. As the four women began drawing their images for the four emotions. They began talking about loss and dying and their experience or lack of experience with art. I was intrigued and asked more questions as they slowly and thoughtfully answered. After they finished their drawings, they shared what they had drawn. One woman drew a coffin for “sad” and shared that her sister is very sick and she may be nearing death. Another women talked about her confusion about whether she should stay at the retirement community or leave for “bad”. She said she felt anxiety about this decision. As these women talked I felt like a kid uncovering layers of tissue paper from a present. Each layer revealed a little more of what was inside.
These women were treasures that had amazing stories and a depth of feeling within them. I was just scratching the surface. At the end of the class, they sat there and looked at me. They didn’t want to leave. I didn’t either.
They had shared more than their drawings; they had shared a part of their hearts.
All I did was listen to them. They in turn opened up their hearts.
What a simple gift we can give to one another… the gift of an open ear. In turn we are given the gift of an open heart.
Something to think about as we celebrate Valentines’ Day this Friday.
To see more of my paintings visit my etsy store and website