Tuesday, June 30, 2009


by Judy Westergard
Pastel on paper
Available as 7" x 5" greeting card through
I waited with at least 40 others in the lobby of the Minneapolis Institute of Art for the clock to hit 10:00 A.M., the opening time of this wonderful museum. Every seat in the outer lobby was taken so I parked my tush on the only available space...a low desk opposite the five chairs that lined the window. The chairs were filled by young people, adolescents from what appeared to be a care facility for teens with special needs. These kids were obviously challenged. Four sat quietly staring into space. The fifth stared at me. Suddenly she got up and approached me. Her beautiful gray eyes, magnified by the thick lenses of her glasses, stared into mine while a hint of a smile played at the corners of her mouth. We stood quietly together, our faces no more than four inches apart. I said ‘hello;’ she said nothing. Then her soft, warm hand lifted mine. She held my hand, brought it to her eyes and smiled deeply while she gently -- so very gently -- stroked my fingers. She released my hand, returned to her seat, and stared into space. And me? I was overtaken by feelings of calm, of peace, of joy.
A friend who works with mentally challenged youngsters once told me, “So many people pity them. They think these kids are very unfortunate. But I think they’ve moved on to a higher plane than the rest of us.” I never understood what she meant until this morning.

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