What Might You Decide to Do in the Blink of an Eye?

Have you ever done something both extravagant and impulsive? After reading Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, I’ve come to realize that spontaneous decisions are often as good as, or even better than carefully planned and considered ones. My most recent decision made in a “blink” was to apply for participation with a Therapeutic Arts Trip to Kenya via Global Alliance in January, 2018.

My initial reasons were to introduce myself to an entirely different population than the one I serve, and to find any commonalities between serving primarily Caucasian older adults made vulnerable from dementia, and African children made vulnerable from the AIDS pandemic, to learn from other Professional Artists, to hone my skills as a Creative Engagement Specialist, and at the risk of sounding cliché, to hopefully make a difference.

Though 2017 has been a really great year, I feel I have reached somewhat of a plateau.  I presented three sessions at the LEADER Summit in Louisiana, keynoted at the Illinois Pioneer Coalition Summit, keynoted at the Kansas Health Care Association Annual Convention, presented at the Memory Bridge Retreat, did a day-long training workshop for Jackson County Caring Committee in Kansas, presented at the Dementia Inclusive Arts Programming Workshop in Kansas City, and facilitated countless weekly creative engagement gatherings at Wellsville and Brookside Retirement Communities. I also continue to develop a staff training program initiated by my boss, Scott Averill, called ALIVE. As a result of that program, many of my coworkers have been enrolled in playful improvisational performances and activities with me and the residents we serve. It’s been fantastic. Still, there’s that sense that I’m still just scratching the surface. Thus, the Therapeutic Arts trip.

I’ve been preparing for this trip by reading numerous articles which have challenged my thinking, shifted my perspective, and corrected some of my false assumptions. I’ve been introduced to concepts such as reflexivity, colonization, and ethnocentrism, and have learned that not all humanitarian outreaches to developing countries have been positive. Some have caused more harm than good. For example, the more used clothing is freely donated, the fewer jobs there are in the textile industry; and the cycle of poverty is perpetuated as outsiders inadvertently cause a growing dependence on external aid.

I’ve also considered what I could possibly contribute in the way of creativity and “art” that crosses the cultural divide. For now, I have to let go of my American “lens,” and be willing to see through new eyes. My guess is that I’ll discover how little I really know. In the meantime, a unique gift literally landed on my front yard last month. It was a Red-tailed Hawk with a Starling in the grip of its talon. Both were dead, yet perfectly intact.

 The Hawk and the Starling - Photo by Kareen King

The Hawk and the Starling - Photo by Kareen King

My husband walked me over to see the “fascinating” sight which I videoed and posted on Facebook. I wouldn’t have thought much more about it, however, if one of my FB friends wouldn’t have planted the idea that this sighting was not a mere accident, but divine. So, the next day, my husband and I returned to the site, and placed a table cloth underneath the birds so I could photograph it professionally. Since then, I’ve been mulling over the different ways it could be interpreted. The obvious one would be that the talon represents HIV/AIDS, and that the Starling represents the victims. But, that’s me interpreting through a western lens. I am guessing there are lots of conversations this image could spark. But, here’s a little tip on how to use a photo as a conversation starter, something I learned at a conference on aging. Ask the following:

-          What do you see?

-          What makes you say that?

-          Tell me more.

Finally, if you are interested in supporting me on my adventure, any donation toward my participation in the Global Alliance Therapeutic Arts Trip in January will be most appreciated. The cost of the trip is $4,800.00, not including additional travel expenses and immunization costs. Here are the steps:
1. Click: http://www.globalallianceafrica.org/donate/
2. Go to the middle pink box, using the "Donate with debit or credit card" rather than the Paypal link.
3. Type “Kareen King TAP trip payment” next to the little pencil symbol that says, "Add special instructions to the seller" to make sure your contribution goes toward my account.

For more information on the GAA Therapeutic Arts Trip, click http://www.globalallianceafrica.org/travel/therapeutic-arts-trip/.

 Thanks so much for your consideration.