Before signing a lease I prayed for decision-making guidance and clear direction because it was a huge venture coming out of retirement to essentially work full-time for $zero. As lease-signing day neared I felt strongly this was the right path and so my final prayers consisted of, “God, if you’re not in this, STOP ME NOW.” So….here I am. No thunder or lightning, no angelic hosts blocking the way, just an open road looming ahead and a sense of rightness.

Soon after I was discussing the process with another artist friend who said to me, “It’s not about you, Claudia, owning an art gallery. It’s about what God is going to do with the gallery.” That struck a chord with me and has proven true.

My confession…I resist strangers walking straight in off the street asking for donations. Within a day or two a young man came in offering banana bread for a donation. He was with a group who supports themselves while in rehab. I broke down and gave him $5. However, two weeks later when another man returned from the same group, I resisted and begged off because I’m on a diet. That was true, but it felt more like an excuse, not a reason. He was cool with it, but asked to set down his tray of wares so he could walk around and look at the art. No problem. After a few minutes he landed on a little book of inspirational sayings and poems written and illustrated by my mother. He wanted to buy it, but could not afford it ($9.95), so I gave it to him. He was so happy, it was palpable. The next day, a waitress from a neighborhood eatery came in looking for “the book” because the man was excitedly sharing it with her over lunch and she “had to have one of her own”. I sold her one learning there are no accidents. I need to be less resistant and more giving because he shared the joy and it returned to me.

Another day a stranded woman whose husband was in a nursing home after a stroke came in looking for any kind work for any amount of money. I had no work, but gave her all my money; $9 and a couple of suggestions of where she could get additional help. I’ve never seen her again. Then there was a young guy who just wanted to come in from the rain and talk about Dr. Who….seriously, I know NOTHING about that, but we talked, sure enough. There was a plain young lady who was offering a beautiful book for a donation and I flat had to say, I’m so sorry, but I’m just not able to today. She left the book anyway insisting I keep it or give it away. One of my favorite new friends is a college student who came with another guy just to pray with downtown merchants. We did and he’s come by checking on me three more times with his girlfriend and other students. He also remembers the name of someone I asked him to pray for. I really enjoy his visits. I’ve had friends come pray, cry, laugh, talk, gossip, drink coffee, and just plain old rest in one of my comfy chairs stationed around the coffee table.

What I’m learning is this. There’s a higher purpose for me being here at this place and time. For one thing, I needed to learn how to be less selfish and pay attention to people. Another lesson is that people need people, and sometimes it’s just that they need someone who’s not judging or criticizing them but instead, smiling, listening, and just allowing them to feel welcome somewhere. I’ve had some of societies’ “outcasts” come see me which made me feel good that this is the place to which they were drawn. I don’t use that word lightly either because frankly, we’re all “outcasts” on some level. My group of acquaintances is as eclectic as the art is in this gallery. I don’t care what your religious beliefs or philosophies are if we can be kind to one another. Everyone needs a safe haven and apparently I’ve got the keys to a place that says, “Come on in.” If that is the higher purpose, then so be it. A friend gave me a little paper recently that said, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by this some have entertained angels with knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2.

That’s something I’m learning every day in Gingko Leaf Gallery.


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