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small efforts
Tuesday April 04th 2006, 8:48 am
Filed under: art,education,General,Goodness,health / healing,politics
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Perhaps this is not one of those times, but in any event, here I am. I apologize to Andrei and the DS community for my tentative beginning and long absence. I have no real excuse other than being preoccupied with life and unsure of how or what I have to contribute.

I am no great writer or thinker, and in a community that seems built on that, posting can seem a bit intimidating.

As a painter and student, my work is solitary as is my nature. Though as I get older I feel my creative work becoming less introspective. I do not feel the impulse to force it in the direction of being socially or politically relevant, but I have been gradually cultivating a vocabulary of images that may have some contemplative or transformative value. It is not that I feel that the world is not in need of drastic and revolutionary changes, clearly it is. The transformation that occupies me is the persistent, gradual, and quiescent experience of looking inward and vigilance in my daily behavior and words (1.).

I recently had the privilege of visiting a truly remarkable group of students. They had previously visited the museum where I work (in the education department). In our brief time together we bonded. These kids really moved me. Though they are all challenge with a variety of low incidence disabilities and the social, academic and cultural isolation that goes along with that, they were all so kind, compassionate, funny, creative and wise (far beyond their years). We have corresponded since then and they had invited me to visit them. They have a truly remarkable teacher and support staff, which many kids in their situation do not have. Their teacher has a curriculum with emphasis of socio-cultural heroes and civic responsibility. So the students researched different ways in which they could contribute to their community and decided they were interested in elderly care. After researching several different therapies, they connected with a local nursing home, which they now visit on a weekly basis. This has had an enormous impact on them, and on many levels. For the first time in their lives, these kids are the caregivers, rather than receivers. For many of them, the feeling that they are needed by someone else is entirely new and a wonderful experience. This has been a great boost to their confidence and feelings of self-worth. They have also become involved with a program called “Best Buddies” which has connected them to the rest of the school community in a way that they previously had not been.

They are developing a series of presentations for some of their local elementary schools, which I think is fantastic. However, I feel strongly that this is a really remarkable group of students that really have something of value to share with a much larger audience. There are many students their age, whether or not they share the same challenges, that may want to contribute to their community in some way, but do not know how or where to start. Perhaps no one ever even told them that they could. Towards that end I asked them if they would be interested in working with me to figure out a way they could show other students the projects they have been working on, and they were thrilled with the idea. I am not sure what form this will take, but one possibility is some sort of documentary. I will be looking into the possibility of connecting them with a local filmmaker / student.

In any event, I feel really fortunate to have met them .

1. Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it. (Mitchell v. 78)

Mitchell, Stephan. Tao Te Ching. 1st ed. New York: Harper Perennial, 1988.

4 Comments so far
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Yay Laurence – it is so good to see your voice again. You were missed but I am sure I can speak fro everyone and say that we all understand the business of life. I loved this post! I was blessed to be a teacher’s aid for several semesters in highschool for the “special ed” class.

I always thought that those kids (some of them my age peers) did more for me than I did for them. I always felt so valued and appreciated even for the smallest things. I think that part of how they suffered was being isolated from the rest of the school population and I remember how much they loved to exchange greetings outside of our classroom time together – when we passed in the halls or at school dances.

I think your idea really goes to the heart of what it is to feel good as a human – no matter what your level of functioning, IQ, abilities, etc. The feeling of being useful to your fellow man or woman is so powerful and transformative. The feeling of being connected to others through service or even by bringing a smile to someone else’s face.

I will never forget John who was in this class I was the aid for. It was very important for John to feel cool. He had developed quite the strut, he wore a leather jacket equipped with the bandanas of a rocker of the 1984 Van Halen type. He wore dark shades and sported a huge smile. When he saw you in the hall he raised his hand as high as he could and gave the most well developed and well aimed high fives I have yet to encounter. It always made me laugh and after each high five he would say “Awesome!” and keep moving down the hall.

Thanks for the story Laurence – I hope you have a lot of luck finding someone to work on this documentary. I would love to hear how this progresses.

Comment by andrei hedstrom 04.04.06 @ 11:17 am

Hi Lawrence,
I sure understand your beginning thoughts. I have a creative (in music, so also solitary) background myself and have been in extremes of introspection also. For me it has gone in phases also. Having to stop playing, I was forced to turn my introspection outward to try to find a new path….so I became more extroverted but recently have found myself turning inward once again but what is great is that I don’t feel bad about it as I sometimes have in the past. I’m not saying that you feel bad about it, just sharing my experience. I for one think D.S. could use more visual…..provocation, let’s say and I’d love to see photos of some of your paintings, even if the subject matter wasn’t on “changing the world!” Oops, gotta run. More later! Keep chiming in!

Comment by zoe 04.04.06 @ 3:58 pm


Your post was very uplifting, and got me very interested in the students you mention. It’s nice to know that somewhere out there, these sorts of things are happening.

I’ll be eager to hear more about them, and hope you find a documentarian to film them (I’d suggest trying some local universities).

V. =)

Comment by veronika 04.05.06 @ 4:53 pm

Hi Andrei, Zoe and Veronika,

Thanks for your comments, interest and support. I will keep you posted on how things develop with my young heroes. They have a special place in my heart. A friend who is a young film maker has expressed some interest and I will be talking more with him about it.

Zoe, you can see some of my work online at http://www.laurencemcnamara.com

Thanks for sharing the story about John, Andre. It made me smile.


Comment by laurence 04.06.06 @ 4:02 pm

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