THE ART OF GIVING
“Once you realize that helping others is a selfish passport to life, why not be selfish?” –Eve Branson
Welcome to the Art of Giving, my favorite part of the Creative Awakenings site, as it combines my three favorite things: Art, Giving and Wellness. I am so grateful to be part of a growing community of health care centers, spas and communities around the country that recognize the scientifically proven, profound positive impact that creative outlets and giving of ourselves have on our health and well-being.
As a small child, I loved digging clay out of the stream behind my home. I remember how good it felt to have my hands digging in the dirt, using the earth to “shape” something that would actually be recognizable by others. I didn’t know why, but I knew it felt wonderful – my path of creating and wellness had begun. Those feelings of wonder and timelessness have guided and reflected my entire life, eventually leading to my greatest joy: facilitating these feelings in others.
As a grown woman and single mom, personal challenges put me on a different spiritual path; one of seeking knowledge and techniques to help me navigate through my pain, instead of going around it. I began meditating and dove into the self-help world. I learned that sharing my creativity in any way always raised my spirits, so I actively sought out or created projects where I could spread the joy. In 2000, I worked with the Los Angeles School for the Junior Blind and Oakwood Elementary School in creating a 20-foot-long interactive “Tac-Tile” mural that would be safe for blind children to touch.
In 2002, I was commissioned by the Boulder City Veteran’s Center Home to create a large-scale mural that celebrated the veterans’ journey. At the unveiling event, I painted the vets’ hands so they could place their handprints into the final work of art, making their mark and memorializing their dedication and service to our country. In 2004, I created “Funny Bones,” in conjunction with Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center and Alexander Dawson School in Las Vegas, where I rallied the 2nd graders in decorating hospital gowns for their hospitalized peers. The school kids learned that they had the power to make a difference for others, and the children who weren’t well learned that they were cared about by complete strangers. From all of these experiences, I learned that sharing my creativity with others made me feel so much better, no matter what else was going on.
Over the years, I created product that donated various causes, including Count Your Blessings Jewelry, which sold out on QVC and supported Breast Cancer Research, “Arf” and “Meow” necklaces for comedian Elayne Boosler’s “Tails of Joy” Animal Rescue site (still available) and the HopeHeart Necklace, which sold out for C.H.I.N., The Congential Heart Information Network. I co-authored “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings,” and was so fortunate to share deep lessons in gratitude that were born from pain.
By that time, I was on even more of a quest to truly understand how to overcome the hardest things imaginable. In a way it was selfish; I was still struggling and needed answers. I thought, what better way to figure it out than to interview people who had been through things I couldn’t fathom, learn how they did it and share that?
That path led me to writing “Soul Models: Transformative Stories of Courage and Compassion.” I conducted in-depth, highly personal interviews with people who had lost children, battled disease, overcome addiction, survived the Holocaust and everything in-between. There was one common theme: these unstoppable human beings refused to give up, no matter what got in their way. Instead, they stepped up to help others, in big ways, small ways and all ways. Their pain forced them to dig so deeply within themselves that giving purpose to their experience became a life-long mission. In carrying that out, they were forced to figure out exactly what gifts they were born with that could help make it happen.
“Soul Models” brought everything full circle: it taught me that practicing compassion, including self-compassion, is the key to healing. And, that every single human being is born with something uniquely special to share with the world. It doesn’t matter if you start a non-profit or write a bestselling book; walking your neighbor’s dog when they have the flu or practicing self-love is just as meaningful. That was precisely why I felt so filled with purpose every time I combined creativity and giving.
I ALSO BEGAN TO UNDERSTAND THAT EVERYONE IS BORN CREATIVE IN SOME UNIQUE WAY; LIFE HAS A WAY OF SHUTTING IT DOWN, TAKING AWAY ACCESS TO THIS MOST WONDERFUL GIFT THAT IS AT THE HEART OF SPONTANEITY, INVENTION, INNOVATION AND JOY.
As time went on, it became my mission to help others re-awaken their sleeping creative gifts, and provide them with tools to support them in living happier, healthier, purpose-filled lives. And so, Creative Awakenings was born.
I taught my first workshop on the floor of my garage with a group of neighborhood women – I will never forget their expressions of awe and empowerment as they “met” their creative selves and experienced the joy and benefits of self-expression for the first time in their adult lives. The workshops evolved and grew, along with a strong private practice and ongoing work in the spa, corporate and community art worlds.
In 2016, my husband Bobby and I had the great honor of dedicating “Gabriel,” the hand-carved fossilized Angel Wing sculpture Bobby made to Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, Texas.
Bobby was moved to complete this sculpture in honor of Ben Breedlove, who touched so many hearts with his message of everlasting life and hope that he shared in a YouTube video, inspiring over ten million people around the globe – after his passing. I can honestly say this dedication was one of the most incredible days of my life.
In 2017, I was honored to be one of the select artists participating in Dell Children’s Trust annual “Art of Giving” event. “Art of Giving” provides a unique opportunity to teach children about philanthropy through a collaborative art-making process between artists and children who are patients of Dell or members of the community. The masterpieces that result support programs at Dell Children’s Medical Center, and the event is nothing short of spectacular. It was here that I first launched Spread Your Wings, a community art project near and dear to my heart – the response was beyond anything I could have imagined. Learn More.
Now, with my children grown, I am grateful to share what I have known since childhood – “The Art of Giving” is about far more than art – it is a transformative way of life that that gives back just as much to the giver as to all those who receive.
KXAN News, Breedlove Sculpture Dedication