Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

A couple of months ago, a researcher from a local hospital came to talk to our seniors about aging, dementia, and Alzheimers. We had the rare luxury of a translator, and so the conversation veered all sorts of directions. Our seniors talked a lot about their needs, from reliable health care to employment. The number one issue they all agreed on was that they don't want hand-outs; they want to be productive and to contribute in some way to society. They want to give. They want to feel that they making their world better, not just coasting through their old age getting handouts from others. I cried several times in the conversation.

I love these people and want the same for them.
One of our seniors feels especially strong about wanting to be helpful. He stays late to clean up after every class. He won't let me or any of the teachers lift a finger to do anything. He delegates tasks to his friends in the class. He could probably run the program if anything happened to me. Every time he sees Abe, he slips him a dollar bill in his pocket. He never leaves for the day without asking if there is anything else that needs to be done.

This senior is an especially wonderful artist. His work is full of subdued color and rhythm. The man's name means "peaceful." The same is true of his art, so it was no surprise to us when a mother on the east coast bought through the etsy shop three of his pieces to hang in her 18-month-old son's nursery. She asked for a photo of the artist with the pieces she bought. I obliged her, asking if in return, she would send me a photo of her son with the art. I want to show the artist. I want him to see that he is making his world better. I want him to see that his artwork is bringing an authentic piece of Ethiopia to an Ethiopian adoptee's world. This is beauty.

The peaceful worker bee takes a much-deserved break to have some yogurt.

Last week, we got to take our seniors to see their art on display. It was an incredible moment to watch the faces of these artists see for the first time their art hung in frames in a public space. I couldn't stop smiling as I walked among these seniors, watching them 'behold' their creativity on display. I felt, once again, immeasurably proud to be a part of this beautiful community of African seniors.

Our seniors checking out their art on display

Not too long ago, this beautiful lady couldn't write her name; now she proudly autographs every work of art she creates.

Reading his bio, the creator of the popular "Ethiopian Wildflowers."

Their art continues to be on display through the month of November (we'd originally been told through October, but I think the owner is digging the happy vibes this art brings to his shop). You can visit it at YoChoice Yogurt on Northeast 50th Avenue and Fremont Street. You can also buy prints of the art online at

An Eritrean, a Somali, and a tiny Ethiopian enjoying some rare Portland sunshine at YoChoice.


Meg said...

What an amazing organization to be a part of. I volunteer with homeless teens and it's amazing what I learn from them. Thank you for sharing.

Sara said...

Wow. I always enjoy your posts about your students. I currently have one of the prints on my desk.

coffeemom said...

I want your job.

Julie said...

Very cool Lori.

becca albertson said...

wanted you to know that, come december, your friends may be receiving orders from people in NC. i was able to link to the etsy shop in my article (it'll be published in late Nov). very tiny shout out, but it's there :).

JanKa said...

Reading these lines made me feel so much better and peaceful... thank you