The dapper, young man had finished his basic training, twenty pounds heavier than when he went in. All twenty pounds were muscle. He had always been handsome in my eyes, but there was a difference – a confidence and assurance I hadn’t seen before. The first things he did when he got home, was buy a gun and begin to grow a beard. The gun probably saved his father’s life. The beard was attractive and made home look very artist savvy.
Off he went to Chicago to become a trained artist. He studied art history, delved into modernism, drew mountains and mountains of nudes. His mother and I decided they didn’t fit into his portfolio at the time. so we got rid of them. He was furious at first, but eventually forgave me. He studied hard and absorbed as much as his mind could hold. He hadn’t realized just how much he didn’t yet know about his chosen career.
Artists were always starving, I thought. They went through tough times all the time. Those were the beatnik days, when art was cool, poetry likewise and the arts in general had a strong place in society. Today artists are still starving. The way of computer technology has taken over much of the creativity of the past and a true artist really works hard to make a living at it alone. Eventually he decided that his career would take him into the advertising business, which provided a good living for us for a while.
Getting an education in one of the finest art schools in the country wasn’t what his parents had planned for him, but they agreed to fund him in his quest. He lived at the YMCA in a Chicago suburb and took the El to school each day. At night he would teach archery classes at the Y.
Since both of us had our early education in Christian schools, coming into this environment led to a huge wake up call as to what the world was really like. We’d been sheltered in the comfort of our homes and church and things like homosexuality, drug addiction, prostitution and willful killing, were unknown to us. But this was Chicago. Murders occurred on a daily basis. There was corruption on every corner as women sold their bodies for a few dollars.
My eyes were opened to this lifestyle when we attended a masquerade ball that first year. I went to the ladies’ room and discovered several men dressed as women, powdering their noses in front of the mirror. I immediately left the room. Even at my young age, being confronted with this situation embarrassed me.
Paul was protected by God’s sheltering wings on many occasions. Having gone through a rather safe life, he was well aware of the results of sins. His father was a mortician, after all. He knew what happened when a body had been riveted with bullets. He was witness to drug and alcohol addiction, as needle pierced arms and legs were cleansed for burial. It wasn’t new to him, but still living in such a different environment causes us to totally rely on our Savior’s protection.
One day an elderly, well dressed, gentleman approached him on the steps of the Art Institute and handed him an envelope. He didn’t say a word, but walked away. In the envelope was a sum of money and a note indicating that he had watched Paul enter that building each day with an eagerness to learn. This gift was to encourage Paul’s passion and continuation of his studies. He never saw the man again so wasn’t able to thank him, but that simple act of kindness remains a fond memory of man’s humanity to his fellow man.
It was a lesson for him to always pay it forward. He’s always been generous with his employees, with business associates, family, those in need and those who simply want a friend. It isn’t always a monetary generosity either. In fact most of the time, we are on the receiving end of someone else’s generosity, but Paul never fails to give of himself – the greatest gift one can give to another.