We will be known by the problems we solve.
I grew up in the Middle East and in North Africa. Beautiful, beautiful places, rich with history, but depressed with poverty and unrest. My mom bought extra baby food each week for the homeless mother who came to our door often, starving, asking for food for her little one. We talked with the old man without legs but with kind eyes as he held out his little tin cup, asking for pennies. I played soccer with the street boys (well, really, they played circles around me and I watched in amazement). I was dressed up in magnificent wedding attire and was invited to be part of the most spectacular wedding ceremony – because I was an American. I have seen lepers, met with elderly people in the lowliest of living places, been a part of a society that is, in many ways (but not all) so very, very different from the one I live in today.
While I am mixing colors on my palette in a lovely studio, I know there are people praying for just a scrap of food. I have gone through many moments of guilt with this thought in my head. Why do I do this work? Is it of any value?
The undercurrent of this sentence, “we will be known by the problems we solve” reminds me to continually notice the things that need to change in the world, in my community, and in my own life, and to work hard to improve the failing parts.
My tools of creativity and beauty-making are not a waste and they are not silly or frivolous. They are literally a picture of hope and grace. Every human needs beauty. We need to see that life is worth improving. Working to make those truths sink deeply into my heart, and sharing them boldly, is the most valuable thing I can personally do with my abilities during this chapter of my life.
While my work often speaks my messages for me, sometimes I need to look away from the canvas and pour some of that beauty tangibly into the lives of others.
It means that sometimes, even though my calling is to communicate the messages of grace, hope, and beauty through my art, it is more important for me to put down my brushes and make someone a meal, or spend time getting dirty with my little girls, or giving my hard earned money to someone who needs it more acutely than I do.
It means that the rainbow of paints on my palette can be used to not only lift someone’s mind and soul, but very physically bless someone in a tangible way.
That is powerful.
That dispels the lingering guilt that seeps into my mind whispering false thoughts about my work being only for the upper-crust of society; so very 1st world.
Beauty acts like water through the social classes. It is not bound by race, rank, or education. It cannot be caged by the haves and the have-nots. Beauty is free because it is somehow bigger than us. Beauty represents resolution. The chaotic and distressed things in the world have been put in order for our eyes to see or our ears to hear and something in our souls understands that this is good. This is right.
Never stop pursuing beauty.
Prettiness and trends will fade away, but connecting with that thing that makes your heart sing – that is beautiful.
Fight for that. Fight to share that.
If you are interested in getting immersed in this idea, and are looking for an outlet to truly help people, may I recommend checking out the Plywood People. They’re changing the way communities relate and are working hard to bring hope and change to the many social needs right here in America.