We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow
Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on
Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won't let show"
We can all relate to needing a friend. When singer songwriter Bill Withers wrote "Lean on Me" in 1972, it went to the top of the pop and soul charts.
...are you a friend?
...are you a friend?
I have artist friends who encourage me to create, I have teachers who have boosted my appetite for learning, there are soul friends who have lifted me up, family who love me in spite of myself, and total strangers who offer a smile that goes a long mile with me.
What do people think when they look at you? Can they can call you a friend? Do you share your smile or keep it to yourself? Do you ignore others that you think are different, have nothing in common with you, or can't help you climb the ladder of success?
We are programmed from birth to respond to the human face. Because of this, portraits are powerful tools to make someone feel special, but also to vent our frustrations on, to throw darts at. What?! Yes, our face is the symbol of everything about us that people like or don't like; that's what they remember when they see our face. My favorite portraits go beyond the physical likeness to capture the essence of a person's spirit, imbuing their image with character. Sometimes those portraits are cartoons, aka caricatures! (Right, John Victor?!)
I've been doing quick portrait sketches with Prismacolor watercolor pencils. This sketch is of "The Sodbusters" with my friend John Victor on the harp, and his friends Dan Daly on mandolin, and Mark Lewis on bass playing at PIke Lake's Bluegrass Festival in June. I've also been doing portraits in assisted living centers and alzheimer's units. Doing someone's portrait draws them in to you (literally!) and is an excellent tool for stimulating the brain and the "heart".
"You just call on me brother, when you need a hand (Chorus)
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to lean on"
My friend, Kathy Groves Fowler, knew how much a hand up could make a difference in others lives, and started "Project UpLift!" in 1999, ten years before she died. She invited me to work with her on this grant-funded program with an "outside the box" approach to achieving self-sufficiency for people and families who just couldn't seem to find a way out of poverty. Chronic medical problems, Illness, lack of education, physical and mental handicaps, family dysfunction, addictions - just some of the mountains beyond their ability to control, alone. Friendship: Lean On Me (taking phone pics in the park)
Kathy believed we can all use a hand up, not a hand out. A hand up shows respect and is a tool that makes a difference. Have you ever noticed that when you offer your hand to someone that it's natural not to let go until they are eye-level with you? If you did they would fall back! Although "Project UpLift!" was a temporary grant-funded program, Kathy's ideas and the program's actions took root and are still making a difference today.
"If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me"
"There but for the grace of God, go I" was one of my friend Kathy's favorite sayings. And it is so true. In a lightning flash, our lives can change, and we are at the bottom of the mountain, the dark side of the moon, or behind the eight ball. Yet, in that same instant, we can make the decision to do something for another person and act on it. One second. Why do we hesitate?
It doesn't look any different from the bottom of the well no matter who's looking up.
Who do you call? Who do you lean on when you need a helping hand?
We need Community. Be the Community. What's the easiest way to plug yourself in? Through the people you know, you'll find a way. Maybe your church...be the Church. Maybe your local school...be a Volunteer. Or maybe through the United Way!
The Annual United Way of Ross County Campaign kicks off this Sunday, Sept. 27, with the 4th Annual Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest as the highlight of Community Day in Yoctangee Park! All artists are invited, all ages, amateur (that includes people who think they can't draw stick-people) to professional (that includes people who get paid for doing art even if it isn't 40 hours a week) to join in the spirit of fun and community by drawing in a 5x5 foot square. Only $5 a square and you get a 20-pc box of Crayola sidewalk chalk (you can bring your own too). Start drawing at 11 am, get a certificate or prize awarded at 5 pm, with a special prize going to the best "LIVE UNITED" themed entry. Enter as a team, group, or go solo. Entry Form: http://www.unitedwayross.org/forms/2009%20Sidewalk%20Art.pdf.
Our United Way makes a difference: http://www.unitedwayross.org/partners.htm
How will you make a difference today?
Illustrations: Prismacolor watercolor pencils on Strathmore smooth bristol 100 lb, 9" x 7", Ellen Doerres © 2009
Photo: Pat Sims and Me, taken by my sister, Celia Doerres Smith © 2009