My $20 Education on the Pier
Last summer, my family had the privilege to vacation with my dad and step-mom on the Gulf Coast of Florida. One evening, while enjoying the beautiful summer weather, we strolled along Pier 60 in Clearwater. We were entertained by street performers, browsed the unique wares being peddled at little booths, and took time to watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico.
As we walked back down the pier, our kids were drawn to a Jamaican artist named Pecoo, who was painting tropical scenes of palm trees on small canvasses.
“Do you boys want to try?” he called out in his Jamaican accent. “Who wants to paint a palm tree?”
They paused and thought for a moment. Shaking their heads, the negative reply came, “No, thanks. I might mess it up.”
“Oh, no, you can’t mess it up!” Pecoo responded. His warm and friendly tones had caused all of us to gather around his table.
My wife and I watched as he taught three novice painters how to paint palm trees, bushes, and birds on the blank canvas. The kids all smiled as they viewed their finished product. Then, he had each of them sign their name in the left-hand corner next to his. They were now “professional” artists with a painting that was worthy of being sold to the general public.
Of course, we were the general public; and Grandpa Dave gladly paid the man $20 to take home the masterpiece that our children had helped create.
Yes, this artist was trying to make a living; and was very wise in how he involved the children in order to make it more likely that he would also involve the parents in purchasing his art. However, as we watched him, it was obvious that he loved to teach. He wanted to plant a seed in each child’s mind that they could do something they didn’t think they were capable of. He wanted to show them that it wasn’t as difficult as it looked if they would just try.
As I walked away with our new painting, I thought of what I had just learned. For $20, that street artist had taught me some very valuable lessons as a father. He had also taught my children several things:
- Step out of your comfort zone.
Don’t be scared to try something new! He immediately calmed their fears of “messing up” by telling them that it was not possible to mess up. Whatever unique picture ended up on the canvas would be just “perfect.”My kids left his table with a sense of achievement and pride. They kept asking me to look at the painting “they” had made. With joy, they pointed out the palm trees and birds that they had painted on the canvas. They saw that they were capable of more than they thought possible just a few minutes before.Parents, believe in your children. Give them an environment that frees them to step out of their comfort zone and learn new things!
- It’s okay to make a mistake!
As one of our kids began to paint a bird, the brush slipped and he smudged the picture. As he went to fix the mistake, which would have only made it worse, the artist immediately reassured him, “It’s OK! Leave it just like it is.” He could see that his past mistake would paralyze him from trying to paint something else on the canvas. He told him to move past the mistake and keep painting.As a parent, I was convicted at how this artist handled my children’s mistakes. He lovingly encouraged them instead of sternly and condescendingly correcting them. Instead of pointing out every one of their technical art failings, he created an environment for them to achieve.As they finished, he said, “You are artists, now!” and asked them to sign their names next to his. He said that this painting was worth $80; but that would have to be equally split by the four artists who painted it. That is why we only had to pay $20 for this museum-worthy piece. What a tremendous attitude and perspective this man conveyed to our children.
- Don’t focus on your mistakes.
Perfection in painting is not possible, and it’s not the goal. Don’t let your past mistakes keep you from continuing to paint. As Pecoo told our children, “Just paint.” Don’t worry.”What a great reminder! Perfection is not possible. “Just paint.” Let God take your imperfections and mistakes and turn them into a beautiful painting for His glory.We paralyze ourselves, and our children, in striving for perfection and looking at our past mistakes. These mistakes cause us to think that we can no longer paint anything of value. Stop spending all your time trying to fix past mistakes. Leave it and keep painting!
- Keep painting.
He did not lie to our kids and tell them that they had arrived and were now ready to make a living as artists. He gave them a taste of how to paint and something to be proud of. As we left, he encouraged them to go home and work to develop their artistic ability. He told them what supplies to buy and reminded them that they could make great art if they kept painting.Pecoo believed in them and showed them that they should believe in themselves. And, then as they left, excited about what they had done, he let them know that they would have to continue to work if they wanted to get better.Don’t become satisfied with what you’ve done. Keep working to grow, improve, and do more with your life!
That night Pecoo, the Jamaican artist on Pier 60 in Clearwater, gave us more than just a fun family memory and a painting to take home. He taught a dad from California some important lessons on developing people and teaching children.
Not bad for twenty dollars!