No disrespect there, I assure you. I just want to set it up properly. I’m a college educated professional, with a background in Art, Technology, Engineering and ample business and life experience.
But tonight, I felt insignificant, shamed, and incarcerated as I was within my own limits.
Tonight’s activity in the prison was to design Christmas cards. We gave the young men paper, crayons, and color pencils and asked them to draw Christmas cards. I offered that they should draw something they knew or draw something in which they were interested. "What do you have to say?" I asked.
They busily set forth with religious iconery, scenes of nativity, presents, Christmas cheer, cars, Santa Claus and the like.
I sat with my paper blank with my head in my hands.
I had nothing to say. I’m not into blindly recreating religious themes. As an American Catholic, I more resemble a Protestant, indifferent to the rendering of religious symbols. Drawing a baby Jesus doesn’t come naturally to me. Virgin Mary? You kidding? Three wise men? Maybe, but it wasn’t coming. Could I draw a camel? I don’t think I’ve ever looked at one closely enough. I thought about as many different Christmas or Puerto Rico images I could and rejected them – each and every one.
I was afraid what I had to say was not worth saying, that my drawing would suck, or be irrelevant. I sat paralyzed by indecision and apprehension. The more I sat, the worse it got. I’m an artist. I still look at some of my charcoals and think, "Damn I was good." But today and recently… I just don’t know.
And these kids, disadvantaged, without the love of their parents or stable communities, and locked up as they were, happily drew whatever their hearts told them. To quote Satchel Paige "…dance like no one is watching."
They did. I couldn’t.
They seemed freer to me somehow.