This portrait, translated from an old photograph into a painting by Varla Bishop, shows us an image of happiness in spite of poverty.
words and artwork Varla Bishop
I saw a picture of a young beautiful girl with the biggest smile. At first I don’t notice the missing button, the smudges of dirt or even her surroundings. Then I looked a little closer.
The man’s belt no longer fits, the pants have a big hole and a big patch. This family is poor. He’s not wearing pants with holes in them because it’s stylish. He didn’t buy those pants that way! He worked in those pants for a long, long time. Maybe the girl is his granddaughter and maybe they’re not related at all.
I see poverty and I see joy in this picture. Her smile is pure; not fake. The original photo was taken back in the 40’s. I don’t know the girl’s name so I’ve decided to call her Lily.
I like to think Lily went on to do great things. That she was surrounded by people who cared. Her parents gave her a solid foundation. Her teachers cultivated and encouraged her mind to love learning. I hope she met a man who respected her mind and her body. Whose love for her was real.
I will never know if any of this is true. Her reality may have been on where her next meal was going to be or how she could earn more money to help her family.
There are still a lot of ‘Lily’s” out there in the world. They need adults who care, who model behaviors that are healthy. In this rich country children should never go to bed hungry nor should they not receive the very best education we have to give.
We should not forget our children. They sit quietly at every table, in every chair listening and watching us. What are we teaching them?