Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rosella and the Ice Cream Shop

Although I never saw her at the exhibit, Rosella had at some point sneaked out of the ice cream shop on the piazza (which the team had been known to frequent, um, frequently) to see it. When I took a toilet/gelato break about midway through the exhibit, she came right up to me from the tables she was waiting, and asked to buy one of my pieces. I thanked her, but had to let her down: the artwork was not for sale.

She persisted—in Italian, with much passion and hand waving. I responded—in English, and American guilt. I hated to say no, and hate when I can’t speak a language I need!

Later in the day, during another bathroom break, with another coffee, I another round with Rosella, who insisted that she wanted my artwork. I used every Italian word I knew to explain they weren’t for sale, had been committed to others already, etc., etc. Rosella glared at me, waved her hand in disgust, and went back to work.

As the exhibit came to an end, I stared at the piece she wanted so badly. Some of the artists had also been asked to sell their work. What should we do? We had already committed to giving the artwork as gifts to our Italian helpers, our translators, the church, and OM Italy. Could we make some exceptions?

I spoke to one of the church elders and we agreed on a plan: we took the names and phone numbers of everyone who wanted to buy artwork. They would be contacted by the church after the exhibit. Anyone who wanted to buy could make a donation instead to the church. In this way, the church would have further contact in the community with a number of people, and benefit financially as well.

And I would go with a translator (Ursula, who I mentioned yesterday) to see Rosella one more time. We would offer the artwork to Rosella for a donation, and Ursula would bring it after the exhibit.

Rosella looked like the least likely candidate to be an art patron. She reminded me of an Italian Fantine (from Les Miserables)—hard-working and sweaty, with thin, stringy hair, and very little eye contact as she scooped cone after cone for L’Aquila’s gelato lovers. When she did make eye contact, one could see the deadness in her eyes.

But those eyes bored into me as she insisted she must have my piece of art, entitled “Heart of Stone, Heart of Flesh” (see photo), a work based on Ezekiel 36:26-27: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

The piece calls the viewer to choose which heart he/she wants: a heart of stone, or this new heart that God offers? Is Rosella looking for a new heart?

She wants to hang this in the gelato shop. Can you imagine how God could use this one piece of artwork to speak to the steady stream of customers coming in and out every day for ice cream or coffee?! It blows my mind, and is one of the most gratifying results of this outreach for me.

Pray for Rosella! And Ursula as she goes with this precious delivery. May a new friendship form, and above all, may Rosella receive a new heart—one that God puts in her!

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