A couple nights ago in painting class, a woman walked in about five minutes late with a quintessential "no" face. Have you ever seen one of these people? There are those who wear a "yes" face, those whose countenance says, "Come talk to me, I am friendly." And there are others whose body language screams, "At your own risk." This woman looked like she'd had a rough day - maybe even a rough life - and I was nervous about having her in my class, hoping she would be satisfied with her painting at the end of the night.
After giving her instructions on where to find her apron and paint, I began to teach the class. I kept the corner of my eye on her throughout the night and the "no" face remained. She asked me a few snippy questions, then made no response when I answered them in the kindest tone possible.
So as we finished up the paintings - they happened to be paintings of the American flag for the upcoming holiday weekend - a young woman near the front of the class asked if I would paint some words onto her painting.
She wanted these words: "Live each day like he deploys tomorrow." It was to be a reminder for her as her boyfriend was about to leave for Afghanistan. I thought the words were so meaningful that I showed the rest of the class the finished product, knowing there were several military wives among them.
The class finished a few minutes later and people dispersed, but the woman I'd had my eye on remained, touching up the tiniest details of her painting. I walked past her as I was cleaning up, and she stopped me, asking, "Would you mind painting those words on my painting too?" Her tone was different this time - much softer and more vulnerable - and I said I would. As I painted the last word onto her painting, I looked up at her to see tears welling up in her eyes.
"My husband is about to go back to Iraq soon, so this is just perfect." A smile even crested her lips -something I hardly thought possible when we had first met. As I handed her painting back to her, I watched her entire face and countenance transform. She looked at her painting, then up at me with a teary smile, then back at her painting. "This is just so beautiful. Best $35 I've ever spent."
What was so beautiful to me was that in that moment, I caught a glimpse of the cost of our freedom. Freedom costs so much for a woman like her, unsure of when her husband will have to go across the ocean to fight, unsure if she'll ever see him again. I can't even imagine. And I understood why she may not have had the perfect attitude that day. I think I'd feel the same way. As I watched her walk out the door, proudly clasping her flag painting in her arms, I realized that seeing that flag for her means so much more to her than it probably ever will to me.
So thank you - to men and women just like this one who have sacrificed so much to allow people like me to live in freedom.