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A Heavy Sweatshirt on a Cold Day

Sep 28, 2013 | Uncategorized | 13 comments

I’ve never been very artistic. My good friend and blogger Connie McLeod of My Creative Journey tells me that there is art in everything in life if you just open your eyes. And, I know she’s right. When I think of my life, I realize art has touched me also.

I got my college degree in my 40s in a program that required winter trips to Vermont each year. It was fun to meet interesting people from all over the US staying at the dorms. On my first trip, I met Doran, another new student.

She was very thin and young, with coal black hair. Lots of piercings, tattoos and dark circles under her eyes added to her punk-rock style. She was one of those people who seemed to slip in and out of the shadows quietly.  Exactly the opposite of me.

‘Okay’, I thought to myself, ‘so she isn’t friendly’. But, it was November and I saw her shivering in her t-shirt. The Mom in me couldn’t stand it.  I offered her a heavy sweat shirt I had, which she accepted gratefully. “Keep it; I’m from New York so I brought a lot of warm things.” I said.  Still, I wasn‘t sure she heard me because again, she had slipped away.

Eventually, she found a coat and I could see she was doing okay. She never became that sociable,  but we’d see each other coming and going that first semester- both of us trying to figure everything out.  She was an art student, I was a business major. While she was creating sculptures, I was writing business plans.

Art Can Heal

Art Can Heal

Quickly, a couple of semesters passed. I’d see her occasionally- almost always alone.  We were always friendly- but distant. Still, there was something to this girl that I couldn’t forget. She seemed so…..sad…and so fragile. I thought it was “artistic angst”, but wondered if it was something more.

Over time, I noticed she was less in the shadows.  She started saying hello, mentioning how we met, and laughing about how cold she’d been when she first came to this crazy New England town.

I could also see her art evolving; haunting and beautiful. She definitely had talent and soon was highlighted at a University exhibit.  Her installation, “Broken Pieces of Soul” was breathtaking. And as took the podium to speak I finally heard the story of this lost little girl.

At one time, Doran needed to pay for art school, and thought stripping was a good way to do it. She could make  amazing money for a young girl who didn’t know how to do anything else.  Still, you give up a lot for that money. And before Doran knew it, each time she went out on the stage a piece of her was lost. Until eventually she couldn’t move, she couldn’t breathe, and she thought she couldn’t live.

She needed help to find her way back, and was committed to a hospital.  Through art therapy she found a way to start breathing again. Over time, she recovered enough to be released. But, when she got out, she still couldn’t quite stand on her own two feet.  She needed to go someplace safe.

That safe place was the dorm room of the university the first day we met. That’s why she remembered me each time she saw me- because I was kind to her when she needed it. She didn’t know if I could tell how sick she was, but that didn’t matter. If she had to ask me for help- she was sure that I would give it, just like I gave that warm sweatshirt. Knowing that I was right next door is what gave her the courage to stay that day. And that’s what she dedicated her art exhibit to.

It’s funny how our lives touch each other. Something I never knew was happening on that cold New England day made me realize that healing is going on all around us- we just need to allow it to occur.

Has art impacted your life? Tell me your story of a time that you needed healing or a time that Art made a difference to you. Sharing is the best part!!



  1. Lois Alter Mark

    What a beautiful post, Virginia. Art is always healing, whether it’s music, writing, photography — whatever! — but you are such a warm, caring person, I think you were a very big part of this woman’s healing. I’m proud to be your friend. xo

    • Virginia

      Thanks Lois, this girl helped me understand my own children when they got into the “angst” stage and didn’t want to have anything to do with me. I have to just let them go through what they’re going through and hope someone else is there for them.

  2. Joel

    Once again, a touching story. Art is being used as therapy on a number of fronts – mental health, substance abuse, and people with chronic illnesses are a few I am familiar with. I think it’s over-looked as a therapy.

    • Virginia

      I know my son benefited from art therapy as a child when we took him to a counselor. It helped her understand what was going on with him and I was grateful. Thanks for the comment, I know you are very active in mental health issues and I respect what you do very much.

  3. Connie McLeod

    What a beautiful story. I work for a hospital that has the beginnings of an art’s therapy program. This is the first time I’ve actually heard a story of how it impacted someone’s life in a very real way. I always love when we learn the ripple effect that our life causes. Thanks for the shout out!! Big Hugs!

    • Virginia

      Thanks for helping me look at things through a whole new pair of glasses Connie! You’re terrific.

  4. Carol Cassara

    Gave you a tweet, so nice to read this today. Made my morning. thank you!

    • Virginia

      Thanks so much Carol- you have made my day also!

  5. Dawn Biocca

    A beautiful story and I appreciate the mom in you. We touch peoples lives every day even through we may not know it. I love to listen to music. Every day it is on in my home somewhere. It helps me do things without really focusing on them – like clean the kitchen. It helps to pass the time. This past weekend I was a vendor at an event wishing I had some music to listen to and across the way was a vendor that had “Oldies but Goodies” playing. It was wonderful to go back to a time when life was easier or slower. Art in any form is relaxing, healing, revitalizing in some way. We just need to be open to it. Love this and love you sis

    • Virginia

      Thanks so much Dawn, I have to say that I remember this as such as surprise that just being taken care of the way our Mom would take care of us is such a sign of love. We forget….

  6. Lisa Froman

    Exquisite. I am wiping away the tears as I write this. Exquisite.

    • Virginia

      Thank you, it was a wonderful experience.

  7. Helene Cohen Bludman

    We often don’t realize how far a small act of kindness can go. You helped this girl by showing her you cared and I bet she’ll never forget that.