Rachel's heART black and white

I grew up being told that Real Men don’t cry.

So I am definitely not a Real Man.

My wife likes to tease me about how often I cry .  She says it dismissively, as if to say she isn’t going to worry too much about my state of mind just because there are tears streaming down my cheeks.

She’s not wrong.  Recently I cried three times in one day.  The first was while listening to a news report on NPR about a young American man who was being released in a coma after being held captive in Korea for two years.  He tragically died soon after he arrived back home.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine the mixed emotions his parents are experiencing.

The second was a story in the newspaper about a baby that was born unable to breathe on his own.  His mother would not accept that fate and insisted on several operations that even the doctors said were useless.  Years later, this young man was graduating from medical school and I cried tears of happiness.

Later that day, I was talking to my friend Jenny at Cafe Ristretto, her coffee shop and wine bar in Mount Vernon, about the mural that we are creating in my mother’s honor as part of our Rachel’s heART program.  I recounted that my Rachel lived through the Holocaust, never really had an education or much of a teen hood, started painting in her 80’s, and even sold one of her works at a LaConner gallery.

When I got to the part that my Mom died two years ago…..Jenny could see it coming and I started to lose it and couldn’t finish my story.

I walked outside to gather my composure and managed to get it together enough to go back in and tell Jenny the rest of Rachel’s amazing story—how she is smiling in heaven now knowing we are creating a wonderful work of art in my home county celebrating the contributions immigrants and refugees have made to making this a great country.

This is the second year that we are offering Rachel’s heART to teens at the Oasis Shelter in Mount Vernon.  It’s an art therapy program that encourages them to find creative ways of dealing with many of the challenging issues in their young lives.

We raised $2500 through a crowd funding program online which will help pay for the course and the subsequent mural.

The incredible Benjamin Swatez will teach the course again and the following week he will start on a very large mural on the huge wall on the south side of Cafe Ristretto facing the US Bank parking lot.

Ben has done art therapy with Syrian refugees in Amman, Jordan through Voices of the Children, a wonderful organization based in Mount Vernon.   The collaboration between Skagit kids and Syrian kids has resulted in a beautiful mural at Skagit College and an amazing one at the refugee camp in Jordan.  Ben has done art therapy with child sex slaves and child soldiers in Africa, and recently finished another big mural in Santa Cruz, California.

With the cooperation of the Mayor, the town business association, the bank and the coffee house, we are going to have a beautiful mural celebrating the likes of Albert Einstein, the Hollywood moguls, and the immigrant farmers and the migrant farm workers who have played such a significant role in the beauty and economy of the Skagit Valley.

Yesterday I got an email from a close friend who grew up in Mount Vernon but now lives in Denver.  He told an old high school friend about the mural and his friend went to the Oasis shelter to see what he could do to help.

When he saw the size of the wall, he got together with a buddy and offered a fork lift for the week as a donation.   More tears of joy!!!

I can’t even begin to imagine what emotions will be running through my heart and mind when the mural is finished but the word sob comes immediately to mind!