It was small talk, I had just been introduced to Nancy.
Nancy asked me what I did.
I told her I taught drawing at Penn State.
“Oh—I wish I could draw.” She said, smiling.
I began the dance I always do when someone tells me that.
“You could. I could teach you.” I said, smiling back at her.
“No, I don’t have any talent.” She said, smile fading.
“How do you know?” I asked, smile in place.
“I can only do stick figures.” She said, her eyebrows growing closer, lifting.
Now, if I had thought of it I would have said, “That’s how I started” but I didn’t think of it.
“It’s easy. Anyone can learn.” I said.
(Yes, Mom, it IS true. Drawing’s actually pretty simple, it’s just learning what to look for, and then practicing a lot.)
“I would love to learn, but I just can’t.” She said.
“Have you had lessons?” I asked.
“Just what I learned in high school and college.”
“You had a drawing class in college?” I asked, still looking as friendly and non-threatening as I could.
“No, I just drew things, you know, stick figures. My sister-in-law can draw. She can do beautiful things in pen and ink.” She said.
I thought of the stuff I’d been drawing lately for my class, pen and ink, ink wash, pencil.
“I can do beautiful things. I can teach you how.” I said.
“I bet you can do beautiful things.” She said.
After a couple more volleys back and forth she stopped deflecting my assertion and just looked at me. Her eyes looked troubled, battling fear and hope in equal measure. Her face shouted 'Dare I try?'
“You really can learn. I’ll give you a free lesson,” I offered, using a total drug dealer tactic; it’s free until they’re hooked.
“I would like to do pen and ink.” She said, hope taking over. “You know, my grandfather didn’t start drawing until he was 70.” She said.
“See, you’ve got tons of time.” I said.
I witnessed how being afraid to really try—if nothing else— is a ridiculous thing to cling to.
What would happen if she failed miserably? The Ministry of Drawing would come and break her pencil? It’s not rewiring a house or fixing car brakes. No lives are at stake.
Likewise, of course, why am I afraid to get wonderful free stuff? Why all the doubt and shame?
I imagine Kanye West will jump up and say, “I’m sorry, but Heather is one of the best mothers of all time!”
And then I’d feel stupid that I actually thought I might deserve it after all. And if front of all those people!
I told a friend about all the makeover jazz and the accompanying confusion. She knows I’m a believer (and not just in the Monkee sense).
“Doesn’t God give His grace whether you deserve it or not, for just believing in Him? Trusting He loves you?” She asked.
That stopped me.
“Uh, yeah.” I said. Always the eloquent speaker.
“So can you look at this as grace? Your friend went to the trouble of writing and submitting an essay so that you could maybe win some wonderful things. She loves you and wanted you to enjoy them."
Does my pride matter more than accepting her love?
It's a gift. You don't earn gifts. You just accept gracefully.