“I have a job for you,” has become music to my ears.
This simple statement has been the beginning of conversations which have ended with me taking children to swim or draw by the river, clearing tables at restaurants on a busy afternoon, tending to an African clothing boutique, potting plants on the terrace of an old French home, weaving in the window of an artisan shop, sewing scarves in a room I had only ever envisioned manufactured with faux parts for the likes of a Medieval Times attraction, and painting in the garden of a woman’s apparel shop, or between restaurants in an alley small enough to squeeze past the canvas stretching beyond the edges of the easel nearly spanning stone wall to stone wall.
My ego has been set aside, and silencing it’s shrills of “I didn’t go to college to perform such seemingly ordinary tasks” was no easy endeavor, but I’ve found a voice with just as much resonance that excites at the offer of a new opportunity to experience life in a way I never imagined I would.
From spending time with children I’ve learned how to create without any inhibitions, to imagine entire story plots unfolding before me, to swim downstream with the current, to find the hilarity in just making faces. From passing afternoons with at first strangers, I’ve learned that quite contrary to everything I’ve thought before, all we have is time, especially for each other. From treating every day as a game I’ve learned that life isn’t a competition, it’s about having the most fun playing it.
I’ve learned that I can work in any job I dislike to make money to pay for things, things, and more things…or I can go outside, do what I love, be available for those who need help, be ready to build relationships, and be open to the idea that today may be the most interesting day of my life, but it may not – and that’s okay, too. I’ve learned that my most valuable resource is kindness, and that money only buys me the things that the world will provide for living simply and passionately.
Abdul prepares us Indian meals when we play chess together, Neu crafts the most delicious vegetarian dishes and endless tea when I weave with her, Kevin cooks piping authentic French cuisine for afternoons when I paint in his side street, and Juliana brings a small carafe of wine when I read after yoga outside their home. Bernard waves hello from his pizza shop when I walk downstairs from the apartment he allows me to live in for free, David gifts me warm clothes from his shop on cool nights, Gary restocks my art supplies when colors run low, and Bram offers a ride when I need a car to get to the next town over.
I’ve learned to believe in the goodness of people, to have faith that everything will work out, that there’s no better place to dance than in an apartment with hardly any furniture. This summer I’ve learned a lot, but more than anything I’ve found that there’s no joy quite like that of learning.