I work part-time as a GED instructor for the probation department in Tompkins County, NY. I teach criminals. I get them ready for the GED test, so that hopefully they can pass and get their high school equivalency.
They are people like you and me. Yeah, I imagine that's hard to swallow, but they are. In ways, we are all products of our environments. Our living situations, our family circumstances and experiences all influence our decisions and the paths we take. Many of the people I work with have the odds stacked against them from the point of birth.
No, I'm not a bleeding heart bureaucrat who thinks that just implementing compassionate programs and affording equal opportunities will result in right decisions and changed lives. It doesn't happen that way. There are too many idealists in their ivory towers writing policy and too few who are actually in the trenches working with the people they claim to serve.
Where I work, people come and go. They come and go to jail, rehab, the Department of Social Services, mental health and court. Once you're in the system, it's hard to get out - very hard.
I've always had an innate curiosity about who people are, what they think, why they do the things they do. I've learned to listen and ask the right questions. It never ceases to amaze me that when a person is really listened to, that person will often open up and share their hopes, fears and hurts. I hear stories and, when I've heard one, I think, "Holy cow, nothing can top this!" And then another one comes along and it does. It's unbelievable the violence, chaos, neglect, instability, and betrayal that some people come from.
Programs don't change people. Don't get me wrong. They are useful in meeting immediate needs and most people will gladly receive any help or freebies they can get. But as far as inward change? No. That comes by way of relationship.
The biggest obstacle I face is getting my students to believe in themselves, that they can actually succeed. When they finally get a math concept or score well on a practice test, I want to dance! I say, "See? I knew you could do it!" More than a teacher, I am a coach. I prod, encourage, counsel, challenge, and confront my students. But more than anything else, I see them. And that is what they respond to. I don't just see thugs, drug dealers, thieves, and prostitutes. I also see them as people with the myriad of attributes, abilities, weaknesses and failings that every human being possesses. I respect them and they, in turn, respect me.
When people ask me what I do and I tell them, they often get blank stares on their faces and say, "You must have a lot of patience." Lol! I only wish. Patience has never been my strong suit - just ask my husband and my kids. But I am patient with my students. It is somehow inside of me, and I think it only comes by way of a grace that is outside of me.
What I do is is challenging and difficult at times, but oh so rewarding. I am in my element, exactly where I am meant to be. For that, I am deeply grateful.
I'm crazy about light. No, not the technical description of light that is presented in a lot of art books. I don't mean light in terms of prism, reflection, absorption, or values. When I sit down and try to read the scientific explanation of these things, I go comatose - comatose with a colossal yawn. Sterile definitions seems to suck the magic right out of light.
When I think of light, the words that come to mind are words like wonder, enchantment, romance, delight, surprise, celebration, break-through, and glory. There are so many expressions and emotions to light.
I think of moonlight spilling out on calm lake waters or sunlight casting diamonds on winter snow. I see valiant light rays piercing through ominous, swirling, storm clouds and fireflies weaving a slow dance in the summer bush like small, blinking beacons.
And what is better than fireworks bursting with color in a black sky?
I went to an outdoors wedding once where the reception was held in a wooded clearing at night. A path through the woods led to the clearing and the bride and groom had decorated the trees on either side of the path with tiny, white lights. It was beautiful - simple and beautiful. Out of all the weddings I've been to, I will remember that one. In walking that path, I was given a gift of wonder.
Another time, I visited my daughter, Grace, at her new apartment. She went into the kitchen to get us drinks and when she came back to the living room, she turned the lights off. What?? Then, the glasses in her hands began blinking like strobe lights at a disco! Hahahaha! She comes up with the best surprises! I loved it!
Is it any wonder that the root word in delight is LIGHT?
Okay, so I love the color coral! It is one of my favorite colors. I tried to find it in an oil paint medium at local art stores - zilch. I tried to make the color coral myself. I mixed my oils - vermillion with cadimum yellow - too dull. I threw in a touch of aliziron - that cooled it down when I wanted to keep it warm. Ugh, I could not do justice to my flamingo painting.
Then.. I went on line and googled it. The only online art supply store I could find that carried coral was Dick Blick. It was put out by a brand name I had not used before - Lefranc & Bourgeos. I decided to order it and hope for the best.
Well! I got it in the mail today and it is beautiful! It brings my flamingos to life! I will never try to mix a coral on my own again!
I thought I'd write a few thoughts on art, life and whatever else comes to mind.