The Privilege of Being Loved
"I'm a first-grade teacher," one hospital guest walked up to my Spring painting in progress and effused, as if she were a palomino who had just whinnied down a pasture full of pegasus colts and fillies, "And my classroom is the whole world!"
"How do you mean?" I asked her.
This was such a spirited beginning of a conversation in Roanoke Memorial, where I set up my easel as Artist-in-Residence both Saturday and Sunday, this past weekend, that I was prepared to hear any kind of magic.
"I mean, I teach children whose home lives are destructive. They've seen violence; they expect violence. And in the same classroom, humble, calm children, who have been raised with the privilege of being loved."
The teacher's schematic impressed me. We weren't talking economics alone. We were pointing out love and compassion, or their absence, as determinants of education and behavior.
We could have argued, she and I, about her word choice. A child should of course have a RIGHT to love, as to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness. But I chose to enjoy her word choice, and to think of love and compassion, as I stood with this teacher, as a privilege, both in receiving and in giving.
"I just WISH all of my children could see this painting!" the teacher smiled.
"What would they see?" I asked her.
"They could name what they recognize, to begin with," she considered, "the raccoon, the bees, the rabbit, the earthworm, the baby birds."
"But I can just hear all the children beginning to pipe up about the relationships that these different parts might produce. The earthworm ploughs the underground. The mint perfumes the walker's path. The snail is the street sweeper. The dog is a protector and companion. The turtle? Maybe it is a symbol, to remind the children that it takes a long time to reach your hopes and dreams. We all have our place, and we are all on the move," she declared.
"I'm going to need to move, too, now," she said in farewell, "to see my sister upstairs. But thank you--now I'm energized, like a first-grader myself. I hadn't expected so much fun in the lobby."