Painting for Puerto Rico


Sometimes, I get big grand ideas that seem so incredibly improbable. Ideas that I do not ever see a way to execute. These kind of ideas often render me motionless. I simply sit and think about them and never do anything. This is about one of those ideas.

At the beginning of this school year there were multiple natural disasters from hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, fires in the Pacific Northwest, earthquakes in Mexico, and a huge hurricane followed by another substantial hurricane in quick succession in the Caribbean.

These were large natural disasters my class of second graders had a lot of questions about. A class at my school started a coin drive and raised about $1,000. I knew I wanted to do something, but couldn’t put my finger on what.

As these disasters unfurled one after another I kept racking my brain of what we could do to help. I felt frozen with no wave of creativity.

Every day I tell my class, “in our class we change the world for good every day.” And it is true. The little lives that walk the halls and into my room each day change the world for good without even knowing it. They comfort each other with a kind pat or sweet hug when someone falls down or experienced a loss (whether it’s a pet, a pencil or a penny). They think big. They make plans to meet their goals and work to exceed even their own expectations. They talk through conflict with more poise and grace than most adults I know.

As we discussed current events in our class meetings, my seven and eight year old students kept asking me what we were going to do to change the world for those affected by these events. I had nothing.

Then one night I was on a “run” (let’s be honest it was a really quick walk), and I had this thought.

“What if my class painted original artwork and we auctioned it off to raise money for Puerto Rico?”

At the beginning of the year my class painted the most incredible self-portraits. I love them so much they’re still hanging in our hallway. We painted them on the seventh day of school. They continually asked me when they could paint again. Why not pair their love of painting with this project? And call it “Painting for Puerto Rico!”

I knew the perfect idea just landed in my lap. This was it. This was how my class could help! This is how my students could use their own voice to elevate others.

My mind moved with rapid pace to the many logistics that surrounded pulling a project like this off. My thoughts swirled around like the colors Pocahontas paints with the wind.

I decided I did not possess the skill set, connections, or time to juggle pulling this off while still meeting all the other demands life had for me in this season.

I went a few early October days without trying not to think about it.

You see, the fear of failure at times renders me motionless. In this instance, the failure would not only be for me, but what if I failed my students? I couldn’t do that to them. I couldn’t tell them they could change the world for good and then they failed. I couldn’t buy all they’re paintings. I couldn’t get a space for this. I couldn’t promote this. The list of could nots flashed in such quick succession through my mind it’s all I could hear.

I tried to think of other ideas. Nothing. Nothing stood out to me. And even worse, I kept coming up with even cooler ways to make “Painting for Puerto Rico” a huge project that would not only impact the lives of those we helped, but also my students.

I tried to squash it down. There’s no way I could do this.

God works in the strangest ways that often annoy me in the moment.

On my commute home one evening I was praying for my class. I kept praying for a creative way to engage (student’s name I won’t tell you) in authentic learning. I prayed for a creative way to get this kid to want to be at school, to see that they were learning, to begin to see their own potential.

It was like God chuckled, cleared His throat and with a smirk said, “Erhm, what about a project where they could paint and research. This kid loves to do those things. I bet you know of something.”

My face fell flat. My heart jumped for joy. My mind began to swell up with all the reasons this would not work. But God as he does slowly quieted the lies. He reminded me this was not about me. This was not about my pride, my success, my skill set, my connections. This was about trusting God to work through my faithfulness and obedience. This was about my class knowing success whether it failed or succeeded.

That night when I got home I rolled out my big chart paper on the counter top. I grabbed all the sharpies and I started planning much like a detective obsessed with a cold case. There were lines, chicken scratch, arrows, and little maps that only I could decipher.

As I wrote out the logistics, things fell into place. People and connections to reach out to poured onto the paper. Ways to connect and engage our community blossomed. I began to see what God saw.

I ordered canvases. I reached out to multiple people. And soon, there was a plan.

This entire process reminded me that often I think I’m supposed to carry the team. I’m not supposed to ask for help, I need to figure it out, especially professionally. But I don’t.

We are not supposed to change the world for good alone. Changing the world for good should involve others. It should be a group effort.

So this Friday during the Tulsa Arts District Art Crawl my second grade class will be putting on an art show with other amazing artists spread throughout the district. Not because of any grand thing I did, but because of the team of people that surrounded us. And to each of those people, I say thank you. Thank you for helping carry this team so they can change the world for good.

They’ll show up with their families and stand by their painting answering questions (we’ve been practicing). They’ll see community members come into the space generously donated by Chimera Cafe. People they know and don’t know who came to see them. They’ll have their google slide reports playing throughout the show. They’ll tell you all about hurricanes, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rican parrots, and artists that span the renaissance to abstract art, to the Harlem Renaissance, to CGI. And they know exactly why.

They know their there not for themselves, but to raise money for those who lost so much. People they’ve never met, but now care so deeply for. But let’s be honest, this is in part for them. For them to see

I had a student ask me what we would do after this was over, how would we change the world for good next?

In my mind I just thought, “Listen kid, this might be it.” But I asked him what he wanted to do next.

He said, “well on the playground we were all talking about how sad it is people don’t have homes. We think we should solve this problem. We can do that, even though we’re just kids. We can help them too.”

My heart melted. This class is full of so much hope, love, care, empathy, fearlessness, confidence, grace, and action.

I don’t know what we will do next, but I do know you will be hearing from these little world changers for the rest of their lives.

If you’re in the Tulsa area this Friday, here are the details for our art show! You can follow us on twitter (

Join us as we celebrate the talented artists of Ms. Steinocher’s class.

Our 2nd Grade class is hosting an art show to benefit hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. Each student has created an original piece of artwork to show at First Friday. The art will be for sale to benefit the Hispanic Federation’s Unidos Campaign.

Come join us for this free event in the Tulsa Arts District. Our art will be on display at Chimera Cafe. After you visit us, browse the various galleries open for First Friday.

Chimera Cafe 212 North Main Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74103


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