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Push past the obvious

“What colors do you see in this picture?” my great grandmother asked me.

 

It was one of her Tuesday art classes that I had joined my first year out of college. Along with my mother and a bunch of other ladies, I thought it was a hoot to hang out with them while I waited to get a job interview.

 

Looking at my Michigan sunset photo, I had chosen many reds, oranges, and yellows to begin my painting. With sleeves rolled up, I was ready to knock this picture out.

 

.But Lulu Mae had another idea. She put all those colors back in their pastel boxes and said

 

:“You are only seeing the obvious colors. What color will you use to begin? What is outside the obvious?”

 

Frustrated and a little defiant, I took another look. I listened to her voice as it guided me past the spectacular and dug into the myriad of colors in the photograph.

 

It was a mind blowing moment in which I saw greens and purples; grays, blues and indigos. There were some I didn’t even have a name for.

 

“This is going to be too hard.” I had whined “How come I can’t just paint what I see?”

 

“No painting today for you”, she responded.

 

That really ticked me off. I wouldn’t get back there for an entire week. She was busting my chops. She handed me an ancient looking magnifying glass. Turned to another student, and left me sitting there, fuming.

 

My grandmother was not rich. She had an 8th grade education. Yet, that day, I learned more about life than painting.

 

There are some people who jump into things too quickly. I think it is our nature, somehow. If you are like me, when you start a project, you want to see it finished.

 

It is difficult for us to take that first 5 seconds and not speak or have an opinion. Slowing down to take in everything around you is the very seed of empathy training. It would be nice if the whole world could process this way.

But we don’t

 

.How many of us think before we speak?

Very few, I think.

 

We speak. We tweet. We press send. Our electric world is fast. Perhaps too fast.

 

Thinking about how our words might affect other people is important.

 

It has taken me, personally, a long time to figure out that the impact of my words is long lasting.

 

Not everyone gets my humor or feels my passion.

 

I am a work in progress. I admit it.

 

My mentor, Lulu Newman, has been gone for 36 years. Her wisdom transcends time, education, wealth, or privilege.

 

Simple life messages.

 

These are the key to seeing the big picture.So, as I go through 2018, my goal is to take the step back. Look at the whole thing. Find the colors I do not see.

 

I still am listening, gram.

 

 

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