The white cane moving back and forth in front of him belongs to seven-year-old Sam. The little guy moves cautiously, as the blind must do, hand-in-hand with a young woman I presume to be his mother, on his way into the Artist’s Reception.
Many of the people here on this Friday night are school bus drivers for District 112 School District. I’m wondering if perhaps Sam’s mother is a school bus driver.
Turns out that the featured artist, John Lince-Hopkins, is Sam’s school bus driver. John has invited Sam to see “Morning has broken: a Celebration of Light”, the collection of oil painting that now hangs on the walls of the Gathering Space at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska where I serve as pastor.
It’s an evening of revelation about a very special group of people who know their passengers by name, quietly welcome each child every morning, say good-bye to them in the afternoon, and watch to be sure that children like Sam with his white cane make it safely across the street no matter what dark clouds may cross their paths that day on their slow, daily journey toward adulthood.
Most of my teachers’ names are long forgotten. But I remember my school bus driver. Why we called Mr. Thompson “Tommy” is a sign of the time in which I grew up when, sadly, school bus drivers did not command the respect that lawyers and doctors do. “Good morning, Gordon.” “Good morning, Mr. Thompson.” All these years later Mr. Thompson stands out in my memory. Bus drivers are special people. Perhaps because they call no attention to themselves, they stand out in our memories as signs of light.
John welcomes Sam in that special way some bus drivers have. “Would you like to see a painting?”
John, whose art has sold for thousands of dollars in Texas, Alaska, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, is inviting Sam to do what most landscape artists most dread. He’s inviting Sam to touch his paintings, to “see” the only way Sam can: by touch.
Lifted high so he can touch the oils of the cloud formations and the light of “Morning Has Broken: a Celebration of Light” Sam reaches out his hand. Very carefully he runs his fingers over the dry paint that allows him to see the light and contours of the clouds and landscapes of his bus driver’s paintings, more raptly attentive to the art than those of us who presume to see what we are viewing.
On this night John’s art is a bus ride into the light of morning breaking into the darkness of night. A seven-year-old boy named Sam, whose eyes have never seen light, gets to touch it for himself.
“Morning has broken like the first morning, blackbird has spoken like the first bird. Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning! Praise for them, springing, fresh from the Word!”