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Friday, October 1, 2010

"Beneath"

When I was a teenager, I got a job as a lifeguard at a summer camp. When the counselors learned I liked art, my duties got expanded to teaching crafts to the "slow" kids. I guess it's all how you look at things, but I didn't think the kids were all that slow, but that was before half the kids were diagnosed with ADHD and given Ritalin. Maybe they weren't the best at school, but part of the problem was they really didn't like sitting still very long. They'd slap their projects together quickly, then look for trouble until I thought about the salamanders. After all, we were doing crafts at a picnic table in the woods.

I showed them how to look beneath rocks and rotten logs and sort through the leaves to find the squiggly little things, and taught them to hold the salamanders gently because they have delicate skin. The kids happily looked for bugs and grubs to feed them while the kids who liked doing crafts finished their projects. My class became their favorite, and the counselors ended up giving them to me through most of the summer. They were sweethearts.

There was more to the job because we were also trying to get "retarded" adults out of an institution and into group homes by teaching them basic skills. I was to teach them water safety. That's a story in itself because they really didn't get the concept. Also, about half of them weighed about half a ton each, and if they decided to walk on the bottom of the pool in the deep end, I was the one who had to get them out. But even with the scares they gave me, the adults were sweethearts too. I racked up a lot of love that summer!

The picture is wax pencil on coquille board. And yes, I know the terms I used aren't PC any more. I wrote this in context of the times and say "developmentally delayed" now.

31 comments:

  1. What a magical drawing and what a wonderful story...I have worked with kids over summers with dance....modern dance, ballet, etc...but they were the master of Improvisation. I learned so much FROM THEM.

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  2. Lovely and sweet drawing, what a great story, I like it!

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  3. Heart-warming post, Linda... and your drawing is magical. I adore salamanders: the way they walk is amazing! Thanks for your appreciation of my own IF post this week, too... you always have such thoughtful responses: appreciate that.

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  4. great illo & enjoyed your post.

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  5. Very lovely illustration - it's great to read of your experiences with both the kids and adults and how they also had an affect on you.

    Great recent post as well - the brochure and pencil illustrations turned out beautifully!

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  6. Thanks everyone! I love getting feedback!

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  7. I like how you always have a personal story AND a great piece of art for the prompt!

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  8. Thanks Krista! I like writing the stories, so I'm glad others like to read them.

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  9. Really lovely work, I love the gentle touch.

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  10. Beautiful!! it brings a smile to my gloomy face with loads of sweet childhood memory ;)

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  11. Thanks so much! I like the idea of spreading smiles around :) :) :)

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  12. So much beauty... beautiful story and beautiful drawing...

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  13. Thank you for stopping by my blog and for commenting because I followed you here. What a delight this drawing is. Then I read your story. Oh my. The things we we do thinking we are helping kids and adults who may have special needs. Imagine the old mental institutions that housed children and adults who were just a tad more expressive or feisty. I am so glad we have understanding people who truly love what they do. I bet the children loved you!!! You also look very kind. I am glad to meet you.

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  14. Thanks for the kind words, and thanks Ces for the follow too. Children and the developmentally disabled can both heal your soul, and I was lucky to have that experience.

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  15. Hey Linda, well isn't Ces and lovely woman? nAnd isn't your drawing a lovely work? :) I think you have captured the girls delight beautifully - and I enjoyed your story - so if you were eight foot tall, had a huge beard and were a bad cook we would soon be calling you Hagrid? Linda 'Hagrid" Hensley? Now that has a ring to it.

    cheers from ozatralis :)

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  16. Thanks Andrew! For some reason, my dad used to call me Grizelda sometimes. Not that different from Hagrid, is it?

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  17. Isn't Ces a lovely woman, and isn't Andrew a Hoot and a Holler!? Hahahahaha :)

    Oh, Linda. Your drawing is tender and loving, like the way she is handling the wee salamander. There is beautiful focus on him and her gorgeous eyes. I also enjoyed your story. It takes an exceptional person to be able to engage successfully with people with special needs. I think it's pretty obvious you are a very perceptive person, able to see what others may not. And you capture it so beautifully in your art, too!

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  18. beautiful piece, here. what a great story to accompany it. sometimes all people need is to be with someone who understands them....you took the time to understand what these kids needed, and look what you all got out of it!
    fabulous. this is my first time here, I look forward to more visits with you.
    xo

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  19. I love your illustration and the story to go with it! You can really find the way to a kids heart by just having time and an ear for their needs! I always admire people with the capability to understand other people's needs! Wonderful job on both ends!!!!

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  20. Hi Linda. Thanks for your visit. Love this drawing - you really captured that wonder in a child's eyes when they see something so magical and different for the first time.

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  21. I really love the girls expression here - playful curiosity I think - the salamander doesn't look at all afraid of her!
    Being PC is overrated sometimes - but I really enjoyed your story!

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  22. You're all so kind! My heart fills with happiness!! The kids made me happy, so I feel a little selfish taking credit for a good summer. I do like special needs people. So often all they really need is some attention and extra help. Maybe it was easier for me because it was a summer job and I wasn't burned out like their teachers.

    @Natalie, I used to wonder why the salamanders didn't move away, but I think they were enjoying the summer too. The kids kept them stuffed with their favorite foods :) We may have been the only people to tame salamanders!

    Thanks hstilluf for the follow!

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  23. Hey Linda! Hey I see your getting quite the following... It's no wonder with the fantastic combo of art and writing. Great story! I had to read the last paragraph again... For some reason my "slow" brain read scars instead of scares....hehehe makes quite a difference. :o) Great post!

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  24. Thanks Jack! Maybe there was a subliminal message there. I think I did get some scars trying to heft the big people out of the pool.

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  25. That's a great story, and a nice illustration!

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  26. I love this Linda! The salamander is so so cute :)

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  27. this is really a beautiful drawing.
    im sorry i missed this...

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