Our Influences on Others by Wilson Bickford

Each school year, I have the opportunity to work with several hundred kids in a “Visiting Artist” program, which is set up by the local arts council. My county is the largest in the state so I cover quite an area and frequent many different schools.

Very recently, I was scheduled for 4 consecutive days to conduct an oil painting lesson with 5th & 6th graders. There would be 100+ kids over the entire session. Upon my arrival on the second day, I was taken aside by a couple of the school staff and informed that “Billy” ( not his actual name ) would be in attendance that day. I was told that ART was his favorite subject and they thought this would be a good experience for him. They also disclosed “Billy has been having some problems and is seeing a counselor because he has been contemplating suicide lately.” Being a father and grandfather myself, I was stunned! I thought, “What in the world would make a 10 or 11 year old boy think such a thing?”

The class went on as planned and each child had a nice little oil painting to take home to Mom & Dad. As is always the case at these workshops, the kids were in awe of getting to work with a “real” artist and were very attentive and well-behaved. We genuinely had a great time.
I gave them all a “pat on the back” and some high praise as they were leaving. I also gave a little extra encouragement to Billy.

The next day, I had a different group of students, but Billy’s counselor came in to tell me how much Billy had enjoyed his lesson and was inspired by it all. She said that his true outlet was in Art so she was sure our little class had a positive impact on him.

That really got me to thinking. Although we don’t always readily realize it, every single one of us influences and impacts upon each other’s lives every day. I am able to touch people with my Art, but it can be something as simple as a heartfelt “Thank you” or “I heard you weren’t feeling well, but I hope you’re feeling better.” It doesn’t take too much sometimes to brighten someone’s day.

Billy was thrilled to get to meet a “real” artist and I hope that our short time together helped to erase some of the negativity in his life. I have no idea of his circumstances or background, but I sincerely hope that I helped to steer him in a more positive direction. Art can do that and I’m so glad (and fortunate) to be a part of it. It’s very likely that I may never see or hear of Billy again, but he has impacted on my life as well. It has been a few weeks now and I still think of him and hope he’s feeling better about himself.
Who knows?,……… maybe another artist was born that day. I hope so!


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