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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Art (01/18/07)

By Debbie Roome



It was suitable punishment I suppose. Fifty hours of community service in payment for one act of vandalism. I’d thought it funny at the time – letting the air out of the wheelchair’s tyres - but looking back, it was pretty dumb.

My heart plummeted when I heard where my sentence was to be served. The Haven. A home for those with physical and intellectual disabilities. Around town, it was commonly called the ‘funny farm’. It was the last place a cool teenager wanted to be. My friends cackled like a bunch of hyenas when they found out.

I noticed the picture frame the very first day the social worker marched me through the doors. It was hard to miss as it was almost as tall as I and so bright. The garish, orange plaster had to be four inches wide and was pocked with bits of broken mirror and lime green beads. Some clown had daubed purple paint here and there and the whole effect was seriously ugly. It dominated a whole wall in the reception area.

I initially worked at the home for three hours each weekend and the frame was the first thing I saw each time I dragged my self through the doors. Ugly I thought. Ugly like the judge who had sent me here. I wasn’t a willing worker but the staff were glad of my assistance anyway and soon trained me in the basics of care-giving. It was an uncomfortable process; learning to change nappies on a teenager, spoon-feeding those who had limited movement. Wiping drool from a ten year old chin and reading Chicken Little to an eighteen year old.

My social life suffered and soon I was alone on the weekends. “Funny farmer.” My friends would chant. “Shelley belongs on the funny farm.” One day I realised they weren’t the type of friends I wanted and turned my attention to completing my community service so I could move on with life.

I doubled my hours at The Haven and before I knew it, the kids started to worm their way into my heart. Henry was a giant eight year old with bug eyes and a terrible stutter. He spent his days crawling around the playroom and whenever he saw me arrive he would shout “Mmme first. Mmme first. Shelly hhhelp me fffirst.” Then there was Martin. He would face the corner and rock on his knees, murmuring to himself. One day I went and rocked with him and later he calmly allowed me to feed him. Great progress according to the staff. My favorite, however, had to be Alyssa. She was sixteen and had been born with no legs, stumps for arms and was severely mentally impaired. Nevertheless, her eyes shone when she saw me and I would sit with her, rubbing cream into her withered stumps and singing softly so only she could hear. She reminded me of an angel with her short blonde curls and clear, babyish skin.

It was at the start of my ninth shift that I finally noticed the painting inside the garish orange frame. Of course, it had always been there but the frame had been my focal point, drawing my attention away from the true artwork. The delicate water-colour depicted a toddler in a wheelchair, sitting in a garden of beautiful roses and fountains. She was golden haired and a soft pink blanket was wrapped around her torso. Where her hands should have been were shrunken stumps. A small sign rested on her lap and I moved closer to read the neat, fluid script.

At last you’ve noticed me, seen past the frame that holds me in…
Don’t be put off by my body, my exterior
Look past that and see the real me
I feel pain as you do
I feel rejection as you do
I rejoice at the wind in my hair and love a beautiful garden as you do
Will you look past the frame and see who I really am?

I stood there for at least ten minutes, tears running down my cheeks. Eventually the receptionist came and pressed a tissue into my hand.
I nodded to the child. “Alyssa?” I questioned.
She nodded. “Her father painted that and presented it to the home when she moved in.” She smiled gently. “It always has an impact when people truly see it.”

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This article has been read 5222 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dolores Stohler01/25/07
It's hard to find words to describe how touching this is. How much we take for granted in our normal, everyday world. Kudos to you for this unusual piece. Great job of writing!
cindy yarger01/25/07
Well put. Good job.
Mo 01/25/07
This made me a bit teary. I really liked the ending.
Betty Castleberry01/25/07
You've conveyed a wonderful message with this piece. It is well written, and held my attention as well.
Sharlyn Guthrie01/26/07
Touching, well-written story. Sounds as though many important lessons were learned through the wise judge's sentence.
Marilyn Schnepp 01/27/07
It seemed that the garish piece of art took a backseat to the story after the first initial look-see; however, when this Writer wrapped up the story, the Reader could plainly see that THIS WAS INDEED the focus of the story...and brought out the lumps in the throats, the tissues to the eyes...of the Readers. You did great job at the "Farm(?)...and Super job writing about it. Well done!
Chrissi Dunn01/28/07
Excellent. A very unique take on the topic. How true that we sometimes see the frame, and miss the picture!
Mariane Holbrook 01/28/07
Beautifully, sensitively composed. I wonder how many lives that framed picture changed.
Linda Watson Owen02/01/07
Congratulations! This is indeed a very moving piece. You've artistically 'painted' this poignant story with a very soft 'water-color' touch. So appealing!
Steve Uppendahl02/01/07
One word describes this piece; wow. Sometimes a story can make you laugh, cry, smirk, smile, or think. Then some, such as this one, can simply smack you right between the eyes. Very well done.
Jacqueline Zerres02/01/07
Congrats on your win. Great story!
Catrina Bradley 02/02/07
Great job! I love your description of the kids and the care they needed. Congrats - your win was well deserved. :)
Mona Lisa02/05/07
Congratulations! I did see your characters clearly. Considering that we only have 750 words, the development of your relationships with your characters was well executed. I felt your protagonist's emotions. Leaving the artwork until the end made a greater impact. Loved it.
Maxx .07/01/07
Very nice piece and CONGRATS on the BoB placing! What a great talent you have! :-)
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/01/07
Congratulations on BOB placement for this awesome story. This is a story to prick the conscience and warm the heart and challenge one to look past everyones frame.
Pat Guy 07/01/07
Congratulations Debbie on such an awewsome piece - I LOVED this the first time. I'm so glad it made it.

Enjoy the dance! We're dancin with ya!
Joanne Sher 07/01/07
Just amazing, Debbie. A big, well-deserved, congrats to you for your BoB placing! Wonderful.
Sharlyn Guthrie07/01/07
Wow! I loved this when I read it the first time, and I'm very pleased to see it made the top three of the BOB. Congratulations!
Catrina Bradley 07/01/07
I liked your story before, and I like it even better the second time!! Congrats!!! :)
Yulanda Ridge07/02/07
So beautiful, Debbie! A message we all need at times.
I just saw an amazing testimonial-video on godtube.com of Nick Vujicic who has no arms or legs, yet travels the world as an evangelist and motivational speaker. Amazing what difference an attitute can make.
Anyway - your very well-written article reminded me of that.
Well done on placing BOB!! Yulanda :)
Suzanne R07/02/07
Just beautiful - WELL DONE!
Linda Watson Owen07/02/07
Congratulations, Debbie! This is truly a treasure in presenting the mentally and physically handicapped as masterpieces of God's creation who we can all love and value if we just take the time. Beautifully written. May God continue to gift us all with His Heart through your pen!
Edy T Johnson 07/03/07
Congratulations, Debbie. This really deserves the recognition and I hope it reaches the world of readers everywhere.

I missed this first time around. It is so good, it made me weep. Now I want to discover more about the author! I love your heart.
Loren T. Lowery07/03/07
How did I ever miss this the first time through? This is absolutely touching. Your writing placed me right there, with every emotion exposed. You awakened my senses and brought beauty into my world today. Thank-you and congratulations on placing with this wonderful essay.
Patty Wysong07/07/07
Wow. What a message. Wow. I need one of those tissues, too. ...Wow.
Sylvia Huffnagle07/23/07
Very good. Truly this article is a winner.
Diane Bertrand08/31/07
Thank you. This article brought back some wonderful memmories for me. As a young nurse, i worked in what was then called a pediatric nursing home with 80 special needs children, ranging in age from birth to 22. each one had a uniqueness about them that required looking beneath the surface to find, but made working with them such a blessing. Thanks again.
This would be a great one to publish where youth groups would see it and share it. Thank you for communicating what you learned from one mistake.
David F. Palmieri Sr.12/05/07
I've been wondering what is missing from my writing...God has shown me by having me read this story. Thank you...it is beautiful, moving, and a great reminder to not "judge a book (or a person) by their cover...
Clive McLaren01/04/08
A moving illustration of how we can see and appreciate real beauty within what might appear at first to be the ugliest of things.

Well written, expressing the real nature of the person who wrote it.
Diane Kobylak01/29/08
I am unsure if this story is fictional or not. But, having worked with children with developmental or physical delays, I can relate. It is the most awesome experience. Thanks for taking me there again. Great story.
Cynthia Griffith01/29/08
As the mother of a severely disabled child this story moved me to tears. Thank you for a beautifully written piece, from someone who obviously has a beautiful heart.
Vicki Wolfe03/27/08
Even the title escaped me...I sort of ignored it like the narrator ignored the painting inside the frame. I loved this and actually wished it was longer, more descriptive of how hard it truly was to have this place be part of her community service, but maybe that's part of its charm. Thanks, I'll carry Alyssa with me today and perhaps see beyond the frame that others carry.
Amy Michelle Wiley 04/14/08
I thought I'd read the BoB winners, but this title caught my eye on the challenge front page today, and I couldn't remember having read it. So glad I found it today! Wonderful story, with a wonderful message. I volunteer with challenged kids sometimes, and it's so exciting when I begin to find glimpses of who they really are inside.
Kim Clendenin04/15/08
How very creative and well done. Love it.
Loni Bowden-Horn 04/26/15
This story moved me to tears. It was beautifully and eloquently written. I am so appreciative that God sees beyond the picture frame and looks at our hearts.