THE CANVAS Last year, I had the opportunity to visit one the most pristine places on the planet; the salt marshes of Glynn Co. Georgia. Georgia’s barrier islands have almost been a second home for me. My parents would take me and my three sisters to Sea Island every August around their anniversary. My mother would take long walks down the beach with me as soon as I could walk. There is also a spiritual presence there I have not felt anywhere else. This trip was a little different. It was a meeting of the Board of Governors for the State Bar. It was also the weekend of the World’s Largest Cocktail Party. Georgia beat Florida so bad that I was wondering if the game would be called based on a mercy rule. Unfortunately for Doug Duncan and the mighty Gator nation, mercy was not in Coach Smart’s game plan. But, something else did happen that diverted my attention from the frequent Georgia touchdowns. My youngest boy, Reagan, and I were sitting at a table watching the game at the hotel when a nice couple sat down at our table. They were dressed in Dawg gear and seemingly had been at the bar for quite some time. We talked for awhile in between Reagan’s cross-examination of the couple. As the 4 th Quarter ended, Reagan was already in my arms asleep after a long day. As I stood up, the couple asked me to stay for a few minutes. They had a question. I was tired too. But, I did not want to be less than a gentleman. The wife asked me where I keep my canvas. Her husband tuned in with intense focus. I said, “Maam, when I was in grade school, my teacher came over to my table and hugged me. She said that she hoped I had talent in other areas of life because painting was not one of them. The lady said, “That is not what I mean. Everyone has a canvas. Regardless of your artistic skills, God gave you a canvas to paint. The painting depicts your life. At this point, I was beginning to get a little nervous and tried to leave again. She said, “don’t you want to know where your canvas is?” I said, “Maam, thanks for you and your husband’s company. But, I have a sleeping 7-year-old here. I have to take him to bed.” Silence. The husband looked at me in the eyes and said, “Your fear of loss has torn your canvas. It has paint scattered about, cannot be read, and is dominated by your controlling nature.” This angered me because it was true. As I listened to him, his wife left without speaking. As I watched her walk away, he calmly said, “she is going back to the hotel room to finish her canvas. I asked him why now? He said that when you are first diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, your lifespan is measured in weeks, not years.
My bad habit of being a little too curious, which I am told came from my Grandmother Charlotte Worley seems to have gotten me in trouble again. As I began to apologize for my nosiness, he interrupted me and said, “Its ok.” Everyone experiences negative circumstances in life. Surprisingly, she is at peace with this knowledge. I have never seen her. But, you have fear. You ensure that no one else can see it. I suspect you have practiced this for years. Whether you know it or not, your fear affects everyone around you. “Look here, I heard you the first time. You don’t even know me. Good evening, sir.” Fair enough, Jason. But, allow me to tell you about the rest of your canvas. How do you know my name? He said, “the sticker on your shirt that says ‘Jason’ was my best guess.” Oh….. Please proceed, sir. “God provides a canvas for each of His children. What we do with it is completely up to us. He wants to see peace and happiness within us. But, you allow the ghosts of your past to confine you, disappointing revelations of the true character of others, and concern with what people may think of your future actions will only create a life of unhappiness. The good news is that God has given us our canvas with many colors to choose from. He wants your unique canvas to reflect a life of joy, not fear. See you tomorrow morning at 8:00 am.” 8:00am Sunday I arrived at the table on time. But, they were gone. I would never see them again and did not even get their names. But, I noticed something on the table we sat at the night before. It was a half painted old canvas with a tattered rip through the center bearing the name of Jason Worley Swindle Sr. A note on the table said, “No one possesses the power to take the one thing you fear losing the most except you. Release your fear and unleash your passion. “Paint your canvas and teach the boys to do the same.” There was no signature. But, it really wasn’t needed. Despite my lack of artistic skills, I started painting that morning and have continued ever since.