Artist conveys power of words to students

BLUE EARTH – “Abraham Lincoln is one of my most favorite characters in American history,” Eric Samuel Timm told Blue Earth Area middle-schoolers Tuesday. “Abraham Lincoln was known for his words of beauty and hope.”

Timm, an artist, drew a picture on a canvas while students watched and the Youth Alive band played popular songs. The painting didn’t look like much until he turned it 180 degrees and it became a portrait of Lincoln.

Timm then asked two boys to squeeze out tubes of toothpaste, and then to try to put it back in the tubes.

“The toothpaste came out really fast, but it’s hard to put back in,” Timm said. “That toothpaste is just like your words. It’s really easy to say, but hard to take back, especially words that hurt.

“Words will always be death and life,” Timm said, as he worked on another painting that turned into the word “Death.” “Words build someone up or tear someone down.”

Timm read a letter from a girl who wrote she was having a lot of family problems and “not even sure I wanted to live … Everyone at school says such hurtful things … The words you have said to me will stay with me forever.”

“This girl was hurt by words of death,” Timm said. “Words that tore her down, not built her up.”

He explained the difference between conflict and bullying.

“There will be people you don’t get along with,” he said. “The measure of you and your character is never how the conflict started, but how you resolve it.

“Bullying is past the point of conflict,” said Timm, noting it is when people use words as physical and emotional power against someone else. “It’s shoving each other with words.”

Words online can have the same impact, he said.

“Pause before you post,” Timm said. “Ask yourself, do you really need to say this? Delete the hate off the screen before you spread it in the world.”

Timm shared family words of wisdom. His grandmother would tell him, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” His mom told him, “When you enter a room, enter feet first, not mouth first.”

As the band played “Roar,” Timm finished the “Death” painting and turned it 180 degrees. It then read “Life.”

He presented the portrait to Al Cue, assistant principal for K-8, to hang in the school.

“The visual of the artwork was powerful, when he turned that sign over,” said Cue, adding that the painting will be “a constant reminder.”

Cue thought Timm got his message across.

“It was very impactful,” he said. “I saw a few kids who were noticeably moved. He definitely had all of their attention. I thought he did a really good job.”

Timm believes it is important to get the message out.

“I came to the realization I’ve got a life, I’ve got a talent, and I have a choice,” he said. “The overwhelming decision was to roll all that together to help people realize they’ve got one life, they’ve got talents, and they’ve got choices.”