YCNBR likes to make you think, shift your thoughts and be creative.
I offer you Elmer’s glue. Does Elmer’s Glue change your view of the struggles and pain in the lives of others or your own life? What?
There is often emotional damage left behind in the aftermath of a life struggle. A person can end up feeling like they are ‘falling apart’, flaking or peeling like a painting that has survived years of harsh sunlight, or that has been lost in an old building that still stands after a war.
How do we approach helping the ones we care about, or how do they take that first step forward to restoration themselves? Simple, pure Elmer’s glue.
The church we were married in is a replica of the twin churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria Dei Miracoli church in Piazza de Popolo in Rome. A couple of years ago it underwent a full restoration of the art work. The transformation was amazing. The same beautiful paintings were suddenly clean and vibrant.
One day I sat watching a crew repair the amazing 100 year old artwork. I was able to chat with one of the restoration artists about the process they went through to restore the art. How could they possibly take a brush to such beautiful work? Clearly, I had no knowledge of restoration.
She said, ‘Every piece is different. Some need just to be cleaned with soft rags, q-tips or brushes. Some need special chemicals mixed added to the cleaning for stubborn stain…’ I asked her what they do when the painting is so badly damaged that the paint is peeling off. She said bluntly ‘We glue it back on‘.
Funny right? Imagine a white bottle of Elmer’s glue sitting by a master piece. How absurd! Wouldn’t you expect a bottle of fine solution that costs thousands of dollars from the rarest of ingredients to repair the damaged treasure? I did, but the answer was not complex rare bottles of potions, it was simplicity.
One of the most significant things I remember from that conversation is the thought I had when I left the building was that the restoration artist didn’t repaint the masterpiece. She didn’t try to change the original work.
She respectfully looked and evaluated the situation, then chose the simple tools that she needed to help the piece return to its original beauty. She was grounded in the fact that she did not own or create the work. She was only there to help it heal and return to its original beauty.
Sometimes to go forward you need two steps back. Clear the mess, clean it and then gently repair before you can move on.
People are the same. We can’t fix one another or change the original masterpiece that God created. Each one of us is a unique and valuable treasure. We deserve and need to be treated with sincere, simple and honest care.
My friend Susan gave me another perfect example of this during our hurricane recovery efforts. Susan is an amazing counselor, but an even more amazing, tender and loving individual. Her greatest gift is listening. She is truly listens with her whole being, the words travel from her ears, to her heart and then she processes slowly her response. Susan is a joy to watch and learn from.
One day we had a teenage girl whose father had just died, was estranged from her mother and completely alone with no money. There was no power in her house, she was cold and had no money. She needed clothes, she was wearing flip flops in the snow (we had 5 inches a week after Sandy); she was a crying, distraught bundle of confusion. The girl told her story, her voice shook, her pain was deep and her mind raced.
After some time she took a breath and Susan, looking her straight in the eyes was ready to reply. I waited to hear what nugget of wisdom she gave. I sat up and watched the exchange….
Susan said, “Have you eaten?”
The young girl and I stopped for a second. What? Food?
She settled down and stopped crying. “No”.
Take a step back.
Have you eaten? Do you have shoes? Are you warm? Let’s stop, breathe and fix that now.
Glue the piece back on with simple pure love and compassion. Nothing fancy, no great phycology. Pure and simple Elmer’s glue.
We cannot fix others who are broken, or ourselves. But we can work for renewal and restoration. Be something better than the original. In ancient times, gold was used to fixed broken clay pots. Those broken pots are actually more valuable restored that in their original state.
That’s a subtle difference. But think about it. Being a healthier version of who you are with the wisdom gained from experience becomes a gift for others. Don’t wish away your struggle, it’s your story.
Our stories become a part of who we are and enable us to one day help others restore. You may not be able to be the glue now; you might need others to do that for you. But one day, one day soon, you can be the artist who helps the masterpiece glue the pieces back together.