If you could help a stranger have a better day, would you?
Back in February of 2017, I was painting a rock to have available for general inventory. It was a canoe scene that was turning out nicely. In my other, non-artist life, I have dealings with lots of people and one man I happened to meet and spend some time with, imparted some details of his family. He was a proud grandpa with adult children and several grand kids. I saw pictures of them on his iPhone and thought to myself what a happy-looking bunch were they all. Then, he showed me a picture of one of his daughters who had some of his grandkids and told me her story.
She was in the middle of her life when she was stricken ill and it was terminal. Then he told me the heart-wrenching story of the doctor's prognosis, her destined fate and her last wish while she was still strong enough to do it. While hearing all of this, I was moved and sat in awe of this guy who could tell me this painful story and carry on with his days. The worst part is that everybody knows what will be coming. I suppose, given the situation, this time would also be the best part for saying goodbye. Nonetheless, I left that meeting wondering how I would feel were I in that situation. I'm still having a tough time with it all.
The Red Canoe
Well, anyway, I was up in my studio painting a rock with a canoe scene on it. It is one of my favorite scenes and I constantly try to improve it. I was painting for inventory and for fun - that is why I chose that particular scene. As I was laying down layers of color, planning where a birch tree would go with the shoreline rocks and how the canoe would be positioned to maximize depth perception, my mind wandered to that guy and his daughter. Her requested last trip, based upon her prognosis, was to take a Boundary Waters canoe trip with her family. I dipped my brush into cadmium red and ultramarine blue and ivory black and blended them on my ice cream-cover pallet to fill the shadows of the daylight, I was overcome by the image of this woman who I don't know. I could see her joyously pulling this very canoe up on a rock-laden shore to unload packs with her family around her. As a BWCA outfitter and fishing guide, I've seen countless people do this for 40 years, so I know "the scene" very well. You can see how happy many people were to be there among those who understand the whole "great outdoors thing" . The imagery of my thoughts lead to how this woman would let the green-steeped, sunlit morning on the portage guide her as she said encouraging words to her kids lugging packs and gear. They all followed into the brush to the great unknown as some portage through the wilderness unfolded before them. She'd lean into the weight of her own Duluth pack on her back, negotiating the rocks and mud of the portage to climb that hill and ultimately see the shimmering blue and white waiting for her on the other side. As my brush laid down more color by adding blues and whites into that scene at the end of the portage, a new idea came to mind.
A Brighter Day
Like a lot of guys, I have a need to try to fix problems. I felt I needed to do something for this woman or, at very least, for her father or her family to brighten somebody's day. Anybody's day in that group....! This whole situation is very disturbing to me!
None of these people know me from Adam. They know nothing about me; nor I them. At best, I know the grandpa somewhat having spent no more than perhaps two total hours with him. Nonetheless, I came up with this notion of sending this woman a memento of her final trip - something that should have meaning to her and if anything, brighten just a minute of her remaining time on this Earth. I would get this painted rock into her hands.
I did just that. I delivered the stone to a friend who brought it to the woman and her family. I also got some feedback through the friend that they were deeply moved by this memento for which I was humbled.
An Idea is Born
From this whole experience, I got a real sense of what a random act of kindness might do for somebody who is facing the end of their time unexpectedly and the unfairness of it all. I decided then and there, that I would begin researching people to find those who an unexpected terminal illness. I would find out what they did that moved them and try my best to paint it on a stone from Lake Superior. Then I would get the painted stone to them either by family, friend, or mail. This would be a memento of one happy time in the recipeint's life captured on a rock and for them AND it has to be done for free.
Why FREE? Because. They didn't order the fine art stone and they don't know me. I'm not going to charge, but I want a piece of my art in their hands as a offering of emotional support with some therapeutic value. When I put myself in their shoes, I would be completely stunned by this, not only the rock but having someone who is a stranger who connects to me through a little work of art. As an artist, it is my small effort to make the world a brighter place for somebody else with no strings, no requirements, no paperwork. They don't even have to ask. It's just a stone with paint on it and time spent applying paint into a reflection of happier times. I've shipped about 30 stones to date. I don't always hear back, but from the few who did send, the note has always been very moving.
Click the Red Canoe for a Youtube video of me and my idea.
Where am I going to take this? Stones Of Uplifting Light (SOUL). I seek out people for whom their time is up unexpectedly and try to provide a little emotional support for them - from me, a stranger.
Right now, I apply donations to cover my operating costs such as heat, utilities, paint, gathering stones and shipping.
I've found that people come to me in search of SOUL stones. Each one has a story.
Ultimately, I hope that SOUL will grow and we can hire a part-time researcher and have a few volunteer artists who will help me paint the stones.
Let's face it. In order for me to operate successfully, there are many costs associated with this endeavor, so we are asking for donations to help us push this forward.
Fine art for the unexpectedly terminally ill for emotional support from strangers.
For this we are seeking donations and crowd-sourced sponsorship. Now that I have actual experience under my belt, I can see it continuing to grow. To date, many have donated money to be a part of "the kindness of strangers". It has been very fulfilling for the recipients of SOUL stones, myself and all others involved.
Ultimately, it is my hope that I am able to push SOUL into a benevolent foundation to help people in some little way using fine art combined with the kindness of strangers. I would appreciate the same help extended to me by strangers. Think about how your donation is used to brighten someone's day with a little piece of art. How cool is that, eh?
Thanks for your help in brightening someone's day.
- Walleye McCall
- Paul Larsen
- Desiree Koetzle
- Gary Frieden
- Wendy Norcross