2011 marked the 25th anniversary of our school, and art made it happen.
I walked into the boy’s study room. It was quiet, but would soon turn into a noisy supper-time dining hall. I sat down beside Paul, an American who came to volunteer for a few months. He is an artist. We had no idea of his talent when we invited him.
One of his passions was drawing on whatever he found. What was trash to most, was for him, an opportunity. When I walked into the dining room that evening, he was busy with a torn piece of paper and a pencil stub he’d found on the table. He was totally absorbed. I peered over his shoulder to see the drawing. An old man leaning over a young child. The old man seemed to be mentoring the child. The child was absorbed in his work, concentrating on the work in front of him.
“Paul, Wow! That’s Shishya!”
“That is what Shishya means. It’s a Sanskrit word and means to disciple someone; a one-
Paul was excited. He went to check it out in the dictionary. The dictionary definition confirmed his art, and the drawing has represented our school vision for many years now.
Paul kept an eye out for materials to paint on and found quite a few. One day he found a very old rusted piece of tin, 9 x 4 feet. To him it was gold! A treasure! To us it looked ike garbage. In hardly any time, using only white paint, a masterpiece was produced. The tin had rough edges, dangerous for school children, so it was hung on the garage wall— the only safe place for it. It’s message about make-up speaks loud on the backdrop of rusted tin.
It’s not about make-up. It’s not about appearance at all. It is about beauty… beauty made from clay, beauty from ashes, beauty from sharing suffering. Beauty surprises us; it comes in many forms.
One day we hosted a sports day for disabled children who were not students at Shishya. It took serious effort to organize, but with the arrival of the kids, the atmosphere changed. Our students were glowing—oozing with love and welcome for their visitors. They offered a supporting hand, or walked or ran alongside those with disabilities, guiding the deaf and the blind. Friendships were formed, love was found.
We have one student in Shishya School who has no arms, and only one leg. He sits on a special table that gives him enough room to write his lessons with a pencil between his toes. He writes very well.
Another high school student is in a wheelchair. The older boys carry him up and down the stairs happily. His teachers asked if he wanted to do something in the Christmas program. He replied, “Dance.”
That is what he did. In his wheelchair, he moved, spun, threw his arms in abandonment and was wildly happy. Everyone loved it.
Because it was the school’s 25th anniversary, I asked Paul to create an art gallery at our school. The kids were enthusiastic like never before. Paul had ignited a dying spark within the students—a fire of creativity we never knew existed. It was an art attack!
“Paul, can you make a sculpture to put in front of the school to celebrate our 25 years?” “Sure. Let me think about it.”
(Shishya Public School, Atak Farm, Village Kheri)
A few days later Paul returned. “Is it okay if I make a heart?” Knowing Paul’s talent and unique creativity, it seemed trite. “No. That won’t be so good.
He left and never came back to ask again… he just began working on it. A heart. When I saw the sculpture, I was embarrassed. The heart I’d envisioned was more of a valentine. His heart was the artistic interpretation of a living, beating heart. In the centre was the shape of a cross. Twisting around the cross were the words, For He Loved.
It was Shishya.
It was the one-on-on relationship that spins on the axis of love.
It was God bringing beauty up from ashes. His speciality.
God, thanks for Paul, and for art.
Video Folk Dance
Video Independence Dance
*Find Paul online at: Paul Crouse Art