Today’s post is part 2 of Misty’s series on teaching writing classes at one of the residential homes.

“I write because I’m afraid to say some things out loud.”
Gordon Atkinson

For the last Creative Writing class, I brought in thirty black and white photos dating from current day back to turn of the century. We laid them out on a coffee table. The plan? Find a picture that speaks to you. Write about your thoughts. We talked as we sifted through the pictures. We mused over the women dressed in hats and gloves, men in uniform, farmers in fields, and mamas rocking their babies.

I think we could have talked about those faces for hours. But when it came down to choosing, I didn’t notice who picked what. Our fifteen minutes began and pens started moving. The room seemed too quiet and one women bit her lip, frowning as she wrote. I grabbed a random picture and started writing, too. When the timer went off, the frowning woman hugged her notebook and shook her head no, like she wished she’d never stepped foot in that room.

But, the woman to my right volunteered right away. She was about to bounce off the sofa in her excitement.

“I picked this picture of this lady where it’s Christmastime and her kids are sitting at her feet.” She handed the picture around. “I wrote about how last Christmas, I got to buy my kids their Christmas gifts for the first time in years. It wasn’t charity,” she said, sinking back into the sofa. “I bought them gifts!” She was glowing with pride, saying she couldn’t have done that if it wasn’t for the change she’d made by coming to Wellspring Living. “I wrote all about how I felt – which was…GOOD!”

The woman next to her congratulated her and patted her on the shoulder, but I couldn’t help stealing a look at the woman who still hugged her knees.

“I don’t want to share,” she said, pulling her brown hair around her face.

“That’s fine,” I said.

Another woman’s sweet words were about a picture of quiet school library that reminded her of the one she loved when her home wasn’t so calm. I shared the brief bit I wrote. A picture of a lady dressed up, sitting on a tractor in her Sunday best, reminded me of my sassy grandmother.

The second I closed my mouth, the woman hugging her knees said, “Ok, I’ll tell you what I wrote.”

She swallowed, glanced at her notebook and flipped it over. I started to stop her because she was struggling, but she cleared her throat and straightened her shoulders. She turned her picture so we could see it – a dark-skinned child on a white man’s shoulders.

“I picked this picture ‘cause the kid is biracial. So is my baby,” she said. “The hardest thing I’ve ever done…was give her up.”

She sniffed and swallowed again. I wasn’t sure if she’d be able to continue.

“But giving her up was the best thing… for her,” she continued. “I couldn’t be here, getting help if she weren’t where she is. And she’s a blessing to them that adopted her. But that doesn’t make it hurt ME less.”

“Of course it doesn’t,” one of the women said.

“That’s how I can make it positive, right?” she asked with tears in her eyes.

“That’s great,” I said, amazed at her effort and willingness to be truthful.

She said her actual words were too personal.

We agreed journals were powerful because they bore evidence of our growth and pain.

“True,” another woman said. “I can’t bear to throw mine away, but sometimes I’d like to set it on fire.”

Even the quiet women who never shared their thoughts laughed at that.

“But I like writing,” she said. “Even when it hurts. It’s another way of talking to God.

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