Today is the feast of the Epiphany, or "Little Christmas" as my Dad calls it. It is when the three wise men, or magi, visited the infant Jesus with their kingly gifts. (It is also when my Mom says I can finally take down my Christmas decorations). Part of me thinks it can't be a coincidence that today I received three beautiful gifts from some very wise people.
At breakfast, I was leafing through the CB2 catalog (I love catalogs with my coffee), and a particularly colorful spread caught my attention. The furnishings were playful, and exuded happiness. When I read the description, I found out that they were the work of a special collaboration between the corporate Crate & Barrel and Creativity Explored, a nonprofit arts center for people with developmental disabilities. (www.creativityexplored.org). I loved the art, but the fact that there was even this little bit of prime-time focus on individuals with developmental disabilities made me feel a little hopeful.
Later, I got a package from a nonprofit I do some pro-bono design work for; L'Arche of Greater Washington D.C. (www.larchewashingtondc.org). I first came into contact with L'Arche about a year after Simon was born. They found out about my work via word of mouth (I love it when that happens!), and they were interested in having me design an invitation, so I went to meet them. I was completely impressed, awed even. L'Arche is a community of homes in the D.C. area for adults with intellectual disabilities. The homes aren't facilities -- they are true, loving homes where the "core" people live with the L'Arche staff as a family. At the time, I had no idea that Simon was affected cognitively, but I had been through enough to know how grateful I was that a beautiful place like this existed to care for one of our societies' most marginalized and yet most innocent populations.
Anyway, I have just completed their annual report and, true to the grace of their organization, they sent me a lovely card and mosaic light made by some of their "core people" as a thank you. The card has a star on it, and I can't help but think that this paper star represents something that I can truly follow to find a way to peace.
Simon, my sweet baby, gave me the third gift of the day. Using his left hand and some bingo daubers (and probably a bit of help) he made a beautiful picture, which feels like a miracle in and of itself, simply by way of its creation. He was very proud of his work too, waving it about with a joyful "Look! I made it!"
A declaration of pride. A declaration of accomplishment. A declaration of self. I made this, therefore I am. I made this, therefore I have something to contribute, a gift to give to those I love. Isn't that what the Magi were said to have done?
How clearly I understand the need to create to be whole. Creating allows me to work, to be relevant, to exert some control over the chaos, and to express myself and my love through my creations. Making things has been a form of work and recreation my life long. After my daughter was born, and I was deep in the mire of postpartum depression, it gave me a way to pull myself out -- whether I made a pot of soup or crocheted a scarf for a friend; it was tactile, real and proved that I could do something of worth. I still cook when I'm under stress, the immediate gratification and the fact that I can make something good are soothing. Today, when a loved one has a baby, I crochet a blanket (fortunately for them, my crocheting has improved over the years). It is the most valuable gift I can give. Through the time it takes and the work of my hands it is my way of showing love.
Throughout history, philosophers have discussed the idea of the artist being divinely inspired, but I think inspiration is more basic. I think that creation comes from the humanity within us. By making things, we concretely show that we are part of the grand, varied and endless tapestry of being. We make, we do, we think, we love, we are. I can't imagine anyone else for whom this act might be more meaningful than the developmentally disabled, that most marginalized yet innocent group of wise and magical people.