To our wonderful friends and supporters,
I have spent the entire last month marveling at our incredible volunteers and the exceptional moments of connection we get to experience with new beautiful humans that have recently joined our ABG family.
I could share so many stories from mural painting days! From the young artist who started painting to heal the pain she has from her sister childhood car accident and has now inspired a new cross walk mural series with us, to the couple, Patience and Vincent, who have just been able to lift themselves out of homelessness in the last few weeks and are excited about being regular ABG volunteers while building their life back up.
There is one story, however, that my heart holds particularly dear. It stands out to me because when I started Arts Bridging the Gap I was thinking of children and young families and it didn’t occur to me that our work could directly impact an older gentleman who spent 30 years in prison.
Robert joined us to paint our two most recent murals at the LA Mission. Thought we met previously, I knew nothing of his past experiences, just that he was Robert, my buddy on the dock at the LA Mission. When we painted together, he was truly one of our team. He was kind, fun, patient and a joy to be around. I could tell he was enjoying himself too – something in the regular outburst of joyful laughter and hugs might have given it away.
The following week I returned to Mission with a young artist to plan our next mural, and Robert slowly shared his story of leaving prison 14 months earlier, after 30 years of incarceration. He told us he was getting his life back on track for his family. When he named the facility he had been in, my young artist shared that his brother was there now serving a life sentence. The two of them, who moments earlier couldn’t have seemed more different, now were deeply connected in a way that brought us all to tears. And just when I thought the water works were done, Robert said that it was this past week working with us that gave him hope for his future. He named all the members of the ABG team, sharing how their kindness had made him willing to trust that people might accept him again. He singled out our star volunteer Thor and shared that their new friendship made a new life seem possible to him for the first time since leaving prison.
As we parted, I was overwhelmed with the kind of gratitude that makes you feel weak at the sheer beauty of life and human connection. This kind, loving soul was carrying such pain and so many challenges from his past and now he has become part of our family and we couldn’t be luckier to have him!
This moment reminded me that you just never ever know whose life you could touch, even in the moments you least expect. I invite all of you to join us for a painting day or one of our other program days because you all have the ability to change a stranger’s life through a moment of genuine connection. And you never know, they might just change yours too.
– With so much love, Georgia