My daughter and her family came to visit on Sunday afternoon and I gave Sam and Caroline the immense set of markers I had bought at the beginning of the Great Coloring Book Craze about six months ago (for the record I did complete two postcards and part of one page in a coloring book). Joe brought up a stack of paper; they were delighted and set right to work. Sam started with a man in serious need of a haircut but unwilling to get one, reminding me of someone else I know but that's another story. When I left the room to get the dinner on the table, Caroline was working on a wallpaper-type design with hearts, flowers, and squiggles in all the right places.
Between dinner (choose between regular cheeseburgers and sage-apple-turkey burgers) and dessert (Sherry's offering of decadent peach and raspberry cupcakes with creamy lemon frosting), Caroline left the table for a while and returned to bring me a new drawing. "These are the six feelings," she explained, and I looked them over.
Feelings and I go way back, back to when I was a child and was not really permitted to have any apart from guilt, shame, and remorse. In my mid-to-late twenties I was a volunteer at Help Line, the crisis intervention center in the college town where we lived. I'll never forget that first class which was on Feelings. "You can't solve their problems," Mark told us. "But you can validate their feelings." When I taught the Feelings class to my Stephen Ministry students, I always gave everyone a big green paperclip to mark the page in their book that listed scores of feelings, pointing out that for many people in crisis, the most helpful thing is for someone to understand how they feel. And as a hospital chaplain, probably the single most important thing I do is acknowledge feelings of patients, family members, and staff. Feelings matter.
I cannot tell you everything I love about Caroline's drawing, but here are some of them:
- Even at the age of eight she can identify six feelings, and they are varied
- The facial expressions reflect the feelings
- As does the wallpaper for each vignette
- The colors for some of the feelings are so appropriate (mad, sad, discusted)
- Silly is included as a legitimate feeling
I can also tell you some of the feelings I have as I contemplate the work of art that now graces my fridge: