Monday, April 26, 2004

A lovely man with a gift

"Get your phone!" a boy called out. I ran across the studio to grab the receiver before the answering machine clicked on.

"Ms. Matthews?" It was the school secretary's voice. "There is a lovely man here in the office, and he has something for you. I am sending him up."

A lovely man bearing a gift? That rarely (better make that never) happens to me. I could hardly wait to see who was coming.

"There's someone at the door!" a student announced. Peeking at me through through the window, wearing a smile that started in his eyes, spead across his face, and settled on my heart, was my dear friend, Rabbi Sid Rackoff.

"Congratulations on your award." Sid handed me a bouquet of flowers and hugged me. " My wife spotted your picture in the paper. I could't find your phone number, so I came up here in person." Sid walks slowly with a cane, as he is well into his eighties. My classroom is on the third floor of my building. There are no passenger elevators. I was deeply touched.

I became aquanted with Sid Rackoff when I first got the idea to invite sculptors to Max Hayes High School to work with the trades students. Sid began his sculpting career in his sixties after he was retired. He works with scrap metal creating figures inspired by the events of his life. His textured metal pieces can be found around the city in any number of locations. He doesn't sell his artwork, rather he shares his creations freely with whomever would like to display them.

When Sid comes in to speak with my classes, he is often asked about the motivation for his sculpture. Several of his works are references to the suffering brought about by war, and Sid will talk to the students about his experiences on the front lines in Europe during World War II.

Today he told me about his lastest project; a sculpture with two figures, one lying on the ground and the second standing over the first, with the head thrown back in agony and grief. It will be called "Our Soldiers Return from Iraq".

He talked with me for a while about the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. His eyes filled with tears as he looked at the boys leaving my classroom when the bell rang to signal the end of the period.

"I am afraid for them." he said softly.

I am too.

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