Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hearts & Art

I took part in a new game today...a game I'm calling connect the hearts.

The cool thing about this particular game is that my role is something akin to that of a rich man's butler who moves pieces about on a chess board for his boss...I'm not really playing or in control but I get to help the players. Plus I have a ringside seat.

A lot of folks who read my blog also read my Pastor's, "ReallivePreacher.com" and know that he is collecting funds to help the Gomez family members living with us as well as another Katrina displaced family with whom our church is working. RLP's readers have been very generous and Gordon has been immensely helpful in quietly distributing cash to help offset some of the costs that come with having an instantly enlarged family.

Three other people - I'd name them but I haven't asked permission to do so and knowing them I suspect they might prefer to remain anonymous - have given direct donations to Amy and or me either through our church or mailed it to us. Those three particular people are folks I know; one is a longtime friend of ours, and although I've never actually met the other couple we've corresponded frequently and have a "blogging" relationship. These are blessed people and I hope they realize how much we appreciate their love and support.

That being said I wanted to mention someone else as well. I've struggled for a word to describe her since calling her - and the other people who have pitched in for the Gomez Family Project - "donors" or "contributors" sounds far too sterile. My mind keeps coming back to the phrase "loving hearts" and for now that's the best I can do. She is a loving heart.

This particular loving heart and I have never corresponded with each other before in any fashion. The other day she wrote me an email saying she was a regular reader of RealLivePreacher and occasionally read my blog too. Then she said she had given the Gomez family 50 dollars via the Paypal link on my blog. She said she was struck by the photo I originally posted of the family and particularly my mention that Ana hoped to study art in college. She asked if at all possible - knowing that there were many needs to address - if her money could be used to help Ana fulfill her dream. It wasn't like there were strings attached to the contribution or anything, she made it quite clear if there were other things for which the money was needed that I had her permission to spend it as I saw fit.

I saw it as an answer to prayer.

I have described the Gomez family members as "stoic" and "weebles" and amazingly resilient, all of which are accurate depictions, but as you might expect for a family that has literally lost everything, they are at times also lonely. Sometimes they feel isolated and confused. Sometimes they are overwhelmed by simply trying to process the enormity of what is before them. Truthfully Amy and I spend much of our time trying to remind them that every issue or problem doesn't have to be resolved today. We've adopted a one day at a time lifestyle...long before the Gomez family members graced our doorstep.

Lee and John' have something that Ana does not...they have school which, although difficult, serves as a distraction for them. It keeps them from "thinking" too much or too often about their struggles and that's a good thing - if you've ever suffered hardship or loss you know sometimes time can consume you.

Ana has not yet enrolled in school (the admissions process starts tomorrow) so she has been literally "stuck" at home with little to do, but think...and worry. She's not a big TV watcher, so we helped her get a bunch of books by her favorite author, and we try to take her out and include her in even the most mundane aspects of our lives.

I think right now life is hardest on Ana. She never complains about anything, but I know she cries sometimes. She is homesick for a home that doesn't exist any longer. She is lonely for her friends, family life as she knew it, for normalcy.

So when this "loving heart" made her Paypal contribution I vowed that no matter what other "needs" we might have that might indeed be more practical, all of that 50 dollars was going to go to Ana and her "art."

Ana is the first to admit she doesn't know enough about art, but she is eager to learn. She dreams of trying painting, and using different artistic mediums to express herself...things she's never had the opportunity to try before.

So that's how I spent part of today in a game of connect the hearts. I told Ana about the "loving heart" from New York who read about her and the 50 dollars. I asked if Ana would come with me to a local arts and craft store.

She tried to hide it, but I saw the tears.

Ana cries sometimes...when she's happy too.

We wandered up and down the aisles looking at this and that, and I made a few suggestions while trying to gauge her interest in various things. Finally it became apparent to me that Ana wanted to explore using pastels and she also wished she could try painting with something other than inexpensive water colors.

I asked a few questions of the store employees and finally found something of a "starter kit" which included everything Ana had expressed an interest in. She looked at me and said, "But that's too expensive Mr. Michael."

Ana's Mom insists the kids address Amy and me with respect - hence the "Mister." Amy and I insist the kids don't call us Mr. and Mrs. Main, hence "Mister Michael."

I assured Ana the art kit was within our budget and that we could also afford a desktop easel, something her mom had already told me she had always wanted. Ana was quiet after that. She didn't cry, but I think she might later.

I then drove her over to Big Lots and bought a tackle box, explaining to her that the "art supply box" at the store where we had made our other purchases cost 10 dollars, but the tackle box at Big Lots - which was actually more versatile - cost 3 dollars. So we were still within our budget.

As soon as we got home Ana proudly displayed her purchases to her Mom and to "Miss Amy" and then went about carefully putting each item (besides the easel) in her new "art supply box."

And I was given the privilege of being witness to her joy.

My stepson is an artist, he's graduated from an expensive art school and his art work is all over our house. Ana looks at it and often remarks that she "isn't as good." Amy and I remind her that she is only 18 and she's only beginning to learn.

She's shown me some of her paintings and drawings (she lost everything in her portfolio in New Orleans) and I've been honest with her, saying they show talent but she needs to learn more. She's anxious to do exactly that.

Ana is a blank canvas right now. I believe her future will be vibrant and beautiful.

I may not know art...but I know what I love.

I love the game of connect the hearts. Bless you "loving hearts" for allowing us to play it.