Adventure in Brazil - My Turn to Cry

The day was a little stressful.  For starters, my ankle was swollen, and I could barely walk.  It appears I’ve played my last game of Twister - ever.  I played it twice at a party in Marumbi.  In the first game, I shamelessly cheated.  When you are a visiting “celebrity”, you can bump, push, smack, and slap anyone in Twister and nobody cares when you win.  That kind of behavior only lasts one game.  I tried to behave myself in the second game, but I somehow sprained my ankle.  Alisson, otherwise known as Deus, said it was karma.  I guess he should know about that.  Anyway, I didn’t move around well all day.

It was my final day to paint on the mural, and we didn’t arrive on site until after lunch.  That gave me about five hours to work.  That should have been plenty of time, but there were distractions.

I’d gotten into the habit of painting little hearts on anyone at the center, young or not so young, who wanted a heart on their cheeks, nose, or arms.  I always called them my “corazon” when the painting was completed.  It appears they loved the attention.  I painted a lot of hearts.

Lucas and his corazon

As the hands on the clock continued to tick on by, I grew a little more stressed about the situation.  And then, one of the teachers asked me to come to her room.  I had no idea why, but I didn’t have the time to go there.

Of course, I did.

It would have been such an incredible loss for me personally if I had not visited. She wanted me to see Claudinei, one of her students, a man with what I think was cerebral palsy.  He loved – absolutely adored – painting, but he did not have the motor skills with his hands to use the brush.

Instead, he had a special hat with an arm in front of his face.  A brush was taped to that arm, and Claudinie painted with his head.  I’d never seen anything like it before in my life.  He was skilled enough to dip his brush in the cup for more paint and then create his own design.  During my visit, he painted a Christmas tree.

His art teacher said that he was not at APAE on the day the students painted on the mural.  Otherwise, he surely would have had his chance to be a part of the project.  Well, forget about my stress.  Forget about my deadline.  Forget about the pain in my foot.  Nothing in my life compared to what this man faced on a daily basis.  He was going to paint on my mural.  End of discussion.

When his wheelchair was eventually rolled out to the mural location, Claudinei’s teacher shook her head.  She said there just wasn’t any way to position his chair so he could paint.  Well, that was simply unacceptable.  I hobbled over to his chair and rearranged things until Claudinei was finally able to paint on the wall.  He applied purple paint to the final letter E.  He was not going to be denied.

And, he was simply delighted.

Claudinei didn’t talk, and I couldn’t speak Portuguese anyway.  But, I figured that physical contact would work in this situation.  I held his hand.  I patted his chest.  I cupped his face in my hands.  He knew he was welcomed and appreciated.  And, Claudinei knew how to show his joy.  His face beamed and his legs flew about his wheelchair as if he were jumping for joy.

I was so moved that I could barely hold it together.  I could not possibly imagine this man’s challenges, but we connected over a mural.  And, I was able to bring a little joy to his life.  My two JAA boys who helped me throughout the project were equally moved.  They both embraced me in a group hug.

And, I cried.

I’m not sure who else cried.  I’m fairly sure there were not many dry eyes in the place.  When the boys finally let go of me, Geremias moved in for a bear hug.  He said, “I might have been born in the United States, but I had the heart of a Brasilian.”

I continued crying.

Eventually, the tears dried, work continued, and the mural was completed on time.  But, before going home, Claudinei was wheeled out one more time to the mural to give me the painting he had completed.

I cried again.