Thursday, May 29, 2008

Portraits of beauty

I wrote a story for the newspaper yesterday about middle school art students who had drawn portraits of senior citizens at a nearby retirement home.

The old people were invited to a reception at the school where the portraits and short stories the eighth-graders had written about them hung in a hallway.

The work was amazing.

And the scene was touching.

I couldn't help but be struck by the two generations. One: young, naive, innocent, oh-so optimistic, eager. The other: old, wise, realistic, resigned.

In some cases, 80 years separated these two players in my little story.

The old people from what I could tell absolutely loved the drawings the kids had worked on so carefully for more than a month. One man couldn't get over how exact the wrinkles on his forehead and neck were drawn, how just like him it looked (though he joked: "I'm not sure I like the picture.").

He stood in the corner where his portrait was for at least half an hour. Just looking at it, studying it, marveling about something or other.

I was struck by how in awe and appreciative the senior citizens were of the students' efforts.

They almost just couldn't get over it.

You know what I think a lot of it is?

The fact that someone took the time to talk to them, study them, draw their beautiful, wise faces and then invite them over for a cookie and punch to see what they all look like in artistic pencil.

They were a part of something different, and they were center stage.

The other thing I noticed is how much the older people wanted to talk. They have stories to tell -- about younger days, wives, children, great-great-grandchildren, businesses they used to own, wars fought, children lost.

It's heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time.

Looking at them, listening to them, reminds me just how much life I still have to live. So much -- I hope -- that I can't even imagine it.

1 comment:

Barbie Schowalter & Kirsetin Morello said...

What a great idea! I was the class mom for my 3rd grader this year, and for the "craft" at the Christmas party I had the kids make cards for all of the residents of a nearby nursing home. The kids loved decorating the cards & the residents loved getting them. But I never thought about engaging the older kids in this way. Thanks for sharing-maybe we can do something like this in our school district.