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This I Believe - Hayden Harper

I believe in listening to others. Doing so helps me succeed at times but can also show unsuccessful results if I do it poorly.

I figured out why when my grandmother tried to teach me how to paint.

My grandmother is from Heard County, Georgia and currently lives on a farm on the edge of Franklin, Georgia. She was always drawing or doing something artistic, there was not much else to do in her town at the time. She graduated high school and went to college but dropped out and got married. Her and her husband (my grandfather) bought a bakery and ran it for years before the marriage fell apart and they got divorced. My grandmother later got married and went back to school to become an English teacher, which she would work as at Ephesus Middle School for the rest of her adult life. Every Friday my grandmother picked me up from school and took me to her house where she and my step grandfather would watch me over the weekend.

One Saturday afternoon when I was around 11, my grandmother brought out some paints and canvas and asked me if I wanted to paint with her. This was not unusual, my grandmother painted all of the time and always asked me if I wanted to paint as well. This afternoon, however, I did not just childishly play with the paints and brushes as if they were toys.  

I asked my grandmother if she would teach me to paint as well as she could. She looked at me and told me that she could give me some tips that would help me. The next few hours held a different experience for me than what painting normally did. My grandmother introduced me to some ideas and guidelines that made painting easier. Before this I would have either played around like the small child I was or I would have asked my grandmother to help me make something that looked nice. Now my grandmother was trying to teach me how to make things look nice on my own without her help.

I was surprised at the ability that I had to make a piece of canvas look like something that I pictured. I no longer needed my grandmothers help to use a brush correctly or mix a color that I needed. Before, I would have been helpless at those things. My grandmother taught me that learning new things can be easier if you are willing to learn from others who are willing to teach you.

I still do not claim to be an artist in any capacity, but I am better now than when I was ten, thanks to my grandmother.


  1. This is a really well-constructed anecdote, and it rings very clearly to your readers. I also really love your belief statement (listening to others). I DO wish that you had come back around in the end to consider a bit more deeply how listening plays a role in your life more broadly, and in the world more broadly. "By listening I learned to paint" rings shallowly in the end, but all that it would take to make this MUCH more impactful would be a final paragraph that explores LISTENING more clearly.


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