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Guest Corner: Giving a Hand


Recently my friend invited me to volunteer. Sometimes I feel it’s a bit of an imposition to ask me for my time. Don't I appear busy enough? What makes others think I might have time to spare for strangers?  I have lots of people of my own to take care of, don’t I?

A painting by Chloe Shard
But all that aside, I said yes because I like my friend. And I was curious. Maybe I would discover something new about myself in the process.

It was going to be a tough job, I thought.  To go out of my way to an unfamiliar location, then use my valuable time to set up supplies for a group of ‘other-abled’ (disabled) adults who spend an afternoon a week painting.  How could I support people in making a painting using oil-on-canvas if they themselves cannot hold a brush?  In fact, without any training in how to support the disabled, what could I possibly have to offer? Conflicted yet fascinated, I took on the challenge.  My friend gave me some pointers to generously help me feel at home in this new world of adults living their every day in a wheelchair.

The afternoon started off easily.  I made coffee and shared conversation with three new friends.  The ‘difference’ was not our age, our backgrounds, or where we lived or worked.  No.  The difference was that I had the use of my hands and legs and they did not. I could sit and stand and move around the room while they were limited to the one position their wheelchair offered. The greatest and bravest of the group was certainly not me. 

My friend explained that each of the artists would give me clear instruction in how to advance their creations.  And they did.  I sat for over an hour beside Amanda as she helped me by telling me which brush to select, which paint colour to use, how to thin the paint, what shape to draw, even how much paint to put on a brush.  I had never painted before and I told her I was concerned that I might spoil her art.  Amanda was very supportive, reassuring me that I was doing well, that I was applying paint correctly, that I was good at what I did.  When I made a mistake, she smiled with “Don’t worry.  The great thing about paint is that when it dries you can always paint over it.” She praised me and thanked me and one hour passed into the next. 

The afternoon was over quickly.  I put the paints away and held elevators doors open as my new  friends left to meet their rides back home. "Until next week," I said.  They smiled back in authentic friendship and love. 

On my way home, I wondered: Who was the recipient of this great gift of time?  It was me.

Next week, I will be back at Laser Eagles again.  Amanda’s painting will be dry and I can fix my mistakes with her direction.

Jane Haque is a retired business manager, parent and grandparent.  Her community participation has included fundraising and volunteering for many organizations and causes furthering wellbeing and peace. Today Jane actively supports and coaches participants of The Wisdom Unlimited Program.  You can reach Jane by email janehaque@gmail.com.

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