Devin was my greatest encourager during my chemotherapy treatments, which was – good or bad – when my fling with painting began. I’d always been able to draw, but painting was a different palette of colours – I’d never had time to paint and didn’t imagine I could. I’m not sure why I turned to painting unless it was to artificially fill my world with the color it was lacking and free my soul, along with my poor chemial-infested body, for survival. I didn’t need encouragement from anyone as long as I had Devin.
‘Oh, I like the colours!’ He’d say as he checked to see what I was doing. Or..
‘Can I have that one to show my friends at school?’
And always, his good-natured expression was matched by the satisfaction and amusement on my face. Sometimes he sat with me and coloured with his twistables, often immune to suggestion about what to draw first but always cheerful and giving his best concentration to the task. Have I mentioned he’s only six? Apart from arguing over whose gel pens were whose, I cherished the opportunity to be with him because he was precious to me and I witnessed by being with him a young artist in the unfolding. He loved learning new things as long as enough time passed for him to master other concepts he needed to become familiar with first, and in short time I became his ‘grandmother-hero.’
‘Did you know my nana can paint with one hand?’ He announced this with pride to an airport employee on our way home. He usually chose a stranger to proclaim this news to like a waiter in a restaurant or a department store employee, and he always responded to the laughter that followed good-humoredly and regarded it as an incentive to win over potential friends.
if I forgot to mention I’m one-handed I should have – it’s important to the story.
In Spanish the verb ‘dar ánimos’ or ‘animar’ means to encourage. ‘Animate’ means to cheer up, buck up. ‘Ella no tiene ánimos para nada’ – she doesn’t feel like doing anything. Many times students in Spanish lose their ‘animo’ when they encounter the formidable number of verbs the language contains – if that includes you, you’re not alone. Students get discouraged with tenses. ‘Los estudiantes no tienen ánimos para aprender los verbos!’ The gargantuan book 5001 Verbs isn’t for everybody – only a few self-punishing people like me lie awake at night thinking about the secret life of verbs. You have my sympathy if that includes you!
Why do we need encouragement? Because a discouraged soul is helpless and we’ve all had hurt in our lives. We’d do well to open our eyes and see in all events, great or small, chariots for our souls – we can either lie down under their wheels and let them run all over us, and weep with discouragement as they trample us half to death, or we can climb up into them and fly away as they take us onward to better places.
The choice is ours to make.