The little girl sat in the second desk on the third row from the window of room 7B.
Papers were stuffed in a random fashion into the cubby of her beige metal desk with the fake wood Formica top. She was wearing her Brownie Scout Uniform. The sash, which was already adorned with four colorful achievement patches, dangled precariously off her right shoulder.
Just below the two adjoined Band-Aids on her shin was a long gray smear of crusty, dried mud. It matched the mud on the sock right beneath it, which was sliding down into the heel of the little girl's brown and white Saddle Oxford shoe. Her ponytail was lumpy. Wispy straight strands of sweaty blonde locks escaped it around the ears. This was from being pulled tight after chasing the boys during Recess.
The teacher's mouth was moving, but nothing was coming out.
At least the little Brownie heard none of it. That was because she was looking at how the teacher's gold rimmed glasses were sitting rather cock-eyed on her nose, making one eye appear larger than the other, and accentuating the fact that the teacher's left eye went in a slightly different direction than did her right one.
Two nibbled pencils, one red and one green, were balanced in the slot at the top of the desk, waiting for the girl's small, nimble fingers. Blank paper rested between her wrists. Her ankle was shaking back and forth to the rhythm of the ticking clock above the blackboard.
The little Brownie was thinking about drawing.
She was thinking that if she was still sitting at the back of the room like she used to, she would be drawing right now. She was thinking that in one hour and thirty five minutes school would be out and she would go to Kim's house for Brownie's, and then at last go home, where she would draw a picture and color it in with her brand new box of sixty four Crayola Crayons.
The little Brownie was already developing the composition in her mind. It would be a beautiful lady, viewed from the side. She imagined a Periwinkle Blue dress and a Peachy Pink polka dotted sash with lace edging.
"What was the year and where did it land?" the teacher asked. Now it looked like she had two and a half eyes.
"Deborah." The teacher had said her name. "Do you know the answer? Are you listening?"
"Um..." said Brownie Deborah. "I didn't know you were talking to me. I couldn't...uh...tell if you were looking at me." This was not the answer to any of the questions, and this apparently was a rather sensitive subject for the teacher, unlike "Mayflower History"...
The year was 1960. Fast forward to year 2010.
Brownie Deborah is all grown up. She's a real artist now, who still has problems with concentrating on anything other than creative things, but she knows that a creative mind often wanders.
She also knows that the failure to listen, whether intentional neglect or absent-mindedness, is usually understood as being rude and uncaring. So she has been working for years to develop another skill.
It’s called “listening”.
I wouldn’t say she’s mastered that skill, but hopefully it improves with each passing year. (Unfortunately, she still says stupid things sometimes...)
Listening is invaluable for everyone, even the most artsy-fartsy of us all. It's important that we listen to our family, our friends, the cashier at the store, and our clients as well. Listening is the one skill that connects one human to another. It is an act of kindness, respect, and honor.
Listening is unselfish.
Though it may not be intentional, it is imperative we artists be aware of our tendency to get caught up in the distractions of the moment and forget to listen. As we develop our artistry, we also must develop our ability to listen; to drop everything and concentrate on something other than our own brain on its never-ending creative binge.
So stop and put the pencil down, my friend. Make eye contact. Concentrate on what is being said.
In the end, dear artist, life is communication. Communication is life.