Chuck, a visual artist, has been making little bird sculptures and giving them away for a number of years. One was gifted to Laura, a dancer who spent time interning at Compass Dance Academy, and she named him Eugene. She says, "I'm not sure why the name Eugene stuck, but it did!" Laura now lives in Australia and has started an after-school dance program for girls called Heart of Grace. Heart of Grace focuses on 'Discipleship through Dance,' and the program is for girls from preschool through high school. In small groups of 8 or fewer, the girls come after school for 90 to 120 minutes class periods. They spend time working on dance technique and choreography first, then they have a time for discipleship. Laura says, 'This looks like any number of things; we do Bible study, free worship through dance and movement, quiet time journaling, praying or reflecting with God, mentoring and talking through what's happening in their lives. It has become a place for girls to come and feel safe and have a place where they belong. To be authentic and real and not have to pretend everything is okay if it isn't.' As it turns out, Laura recently found that Eugene plays a special role at Heart of Grace. To find out more about Chuck's little birds and Eugene's role, read Chuck's story below!
As an artist, I often find my journey following some of the oddest little twists and turns. As a Christ follower, the Holy Spirit is the one who owns my creative process, and the manner in which even the little bits of beauty I try to create find ways to speak life to those around me.
Some time ago, I was looking for some simple, creative projects to do with children when introducing them to working with clay. They had to be simple enough for the children to succeed, but still create something they would enjoy. I found a magazine article with a few projects, including one making a simple, stylized bird form. I quickly created a couple of samples.
When I participate in an art show, I like to have some simple pieces to sell along side my more “serious” work, but at a much lower price point. I started selling the birds I had created for around $10 each. However, what surprised me was finding the way people, not just children but adults, immediately connected with their simple, flowing shape. I would find people holding the birds close, gently stroking them. It was not unusual to see the tears flow. The more birds I created, the quicker they disappeared, either sold or as gifts. I crafted them in small batches, and I discovered how relaxing the process was as I quietly created and smoothed each individual bird.
I have collected a number of stories over the years from people telling me how these little birds have wandered into their lives, speaking peace and light, but this one, which I received recently from a friend in Australia, particularly touched me:
Hi Chuck! I have a story for you about one of your little ceramic birds!
Amy gifted me one of your little birds when I left, which was nearly 3 years ago now! And I named it Eugene! I’ve always loved my little Eugene and 2 weeks ago I brought it to class with me. (I have started Heart of Grace, an after-school program for girls which mentors and disciples young girls. We dance and bible study and discuss etc.) So 2 weeks ago I took Eugene to my older class (think 14 – 16yr old girls) and a few girls fell in love with him, and wanting to hold him as they opened up and shared some stuff (there are some girls with some big issues in this group). So Eugene was our safety bird who helped them speak and caught their tears.
Then just yesterday I had one of these teenagers turn up on my doorstep needing a listening ear. She came in and sat on my couch and said nothing for a while until she spotted Eugene on my bookshelf. She jumped up and grabbed him and held him and petted him, which then led to her opening up and explaining why she was here and some of what was going on.
So I thought you might like to know how one little ceramic bird you created has helped!
The Father speaks softly through beauty, bringing healing, catching the tears of those who have walked through sorrow.