“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” ~Frederick Douglass
I heard this quote over the weekend during a tear-jerking story by journalist Steve Hartman. This story is about a 78-year-old partially paralyzed pianist, Norman Malone, who learned to play with only his left hand after his father almost bludgeoned him and his brothers to death with a hammer. I sobbed. The light and beauty in this man is present in his voice, his eyes, and his music. Even that horrid night couldn’t take music from him. He grew up to become a choral instructor so he could share his love of music with children. After all, it saved him, so of course it can save others.
Recently, finally, he had the opportunity to give his first public performance and it was stunning. And on that stage, through that stream of tears, he couldn’t find the words to express what that performance and what music means to him. He kept it to himself. And I couldn’t help but see that somewhere in him that sweet boy who survived such brutality lives on. And shines on, 70 years later.
Frederick Douglass was absolutely right. It is so much easier to build children up than to repair adults from the trauma of life. The arts, music, dance, writing, and all creative outlets help us hang on to our very essence and give us the opportunity to share it with others. I am heart-broken by Norman’s story, and I am also immensely inspired by it. Art saves. Art heals. Art perseveres.