There’s a familiar adage about “the best laid plans of mice and men.”
I was reminded of the lesson behind it during a recent experience.
My fellow AmeriCorps member, Janie, and I took the two girls in the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown ministries we mentor -- Stefanie and Lucy --to The Butler Institute of American Art for an event featuring a story and art project.
As soon as we arrived, the girls were excited to point out the intricately designed sculptures and paintings that decorate the museum’s entrance. Stefanie and Lucy led the way, pointing out the directory signs: “That way!” “Down these stairs!” “Almost there!” “Here it is!”
And there it was – a room full of people. “I don’t want to go in there,” said Lucy.
“Why not?” I asked. “You seemed so excited earlier”.
“Too many people,” she replied. “I don’t know them.”
I understood the feeling. I was a shy child, too.
But Lucy cautiously followed Stefanie in, sitting next to the other children. A museum employee read The Snowy Day, written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. She told the children the book received the Caldecott Medal for illustrations, pointing out the difference between warm and cool colors and the significance of both artistically.
She then toured a few art exhibits with the children, asking them about the significance of the colors, shapes and such in the paintings. Stefanie and Lucy were eager to answer questions. Any shyness the two displayed earlier had melted away.
When it came time to start the art project, Janie and I split up. It wasn’t part of our original plan, but when the kids proposed it, we went along. Stefanie wanted to explore the museum and learn more about art while Lucy wanted to paint a picture.
I was truly surprised by how interested Stefanie was in studying the different pieces. She exclaimed things like, “Wow, that’s beautiful. It looks like a real person!” and “I love those colors. Those are cool colors, right?”
Lucy, meanwhile, created a beautiful painting similar to the artwork in The Snowy Day. “Lucy told me she wants to be an artist,” Janie said. Every time Lucy made a mistake, Janie continued, she accepted it wasn’t part of her original plan and made it work.
I was a lot like Lucy as a child: I was a little shy and I had a passion for the arts. But unlike Lucy, I didn’t always show confidence in my ability to overcome setbacks. Truth be told, it’s something I still struggle with to this day.
As tutors and mentors, we usually expect to teach the children at Potter’s Wheel a thing or two. Rarely do we expect the children to teach us.
On this trip, though, the children taught me it’s all right when things don’t go as planned. If we keep an open mind and are willing to adapt to unexpected changes, the results can be better than we ever expected.