International art competition has been successfully completed. Young painters, from all over the world, sent more than five hundred drawings, and the assigned topic was: free or what makes me happy…The youngest participant is five and comes from Sweden, and the oldest, Marko from Belgrade, is seventeen.
The award ceremony is about to begin. The winners, accompanied by their parents, friends and teachers, are eagerly awaiting their medals while proudly looking around the exhibition, packed hall, cameras, journalists, and officials, both national and foreign. The organizer is performing the final preparations and checking whether all of the winners are present. Everyone is there, except for Marko.
“Marko is sick, he couldn’t come”, says a young woman in a somewhat confused manner while explaining that she will receive the award on his behalf. “I am his mother. Marko sends his regards”, she adds.
“All right, the award for Marko J will be received by his mother”, notes the organizer. “Just stand there, on the right, to be close when you hear his name. “See the one with the field of golden wheat? That’s Marko’s”, the smiling woman is showing the others a golden-yellow drawing displayed in the hall where the guests are crowded together so they do not miss a single part of the official program and so the camera would definitely “catch” them.
“What a shame, Marko’s drawing won the second prize, and it is so beautiful that it deserves the first,” said the woman while making sure that all of the winners were present. Except for Marko.
Soon after, the program and the award ceremony began. Applause, congratulations, kisses.
As she holds the box of paints, plaque and the medal shaped like a painter’s palette, Marko’s mother is overwhelmed with joy. She might even cry, but there is no time, the reporters and jury members are coming at her from all sides asking questions: “Will Marko become a painter one day? Does he attend art school?… We are so sorry he wasn’t able to join us today!… His painting is really exceptional! What a talent!” the spectators agree in unison. “Can we arrange an interview with Marko when he gets better?”
Marko’s mother tried to explain, but looking at all those radiant faces and Marko’s drawing proudly displayed on the wall, she didn’t have the courage or strength to tell the truth. And what exactly is the truth at that moment, when everyone wants to take a picture of Marko’s drawing, to get his phone number, to visit him?
While the ceremony is taking place, on the other side of town Marko is painting a new field with even more golden wheat, he is trying to make it look like his grandfather’s field of ripe wheat, where he liked to hide the most, where he felt the safest and happiest in the world. Before leaving for the ceremony, his mother tried to explain to him that he had won the second prize in the competition of five hundred drawings and that he will receive a trip to Italy and lots and lots of paints. Maybe, in his little head, he understood what his mother was saying, but he couldn’t explain it or even say it. Marko has, as people often say, special needs. His mother wanted to bring him along but she changed her mind at the last minute. She knew that the crowd and the commotion would make him nervous. So much so, that he would leave a completely wrong impression of himself in front of all those unknown and uninformed people.
“Maybe they won’t believe that the drawing is truly his, maybe they will hold against us the fact that we didn’t emphasize that Marko wasn’t an ordinary boy’’, she was thinking as she was getting ready for the award ceremony.
Even though Marko had never said it because he couldn’t or wouldn’t, that is less important, his mother was always certain that her boy would one day be a painter. In fact, he already was. And for all those golden fields he painted, she was ready to buy him all the colours in the world.
Parents of the children with developmental issues know best how important and crucial their efforts are for the wellbeing of their children. I am not saying anything new when I say that mothers and fathers are the providers of the long-term care for these children and young adults and that they are, by force of circumstances, taught and trained to devotedly do what is best and most beneficial for their children. Therefore, parents are and should be partners of a larger system. Experiences of more developed social and healthcare systems indicate that the parents are the ones who drive the practice forward, while in our country this precious resource is underutilized.
Marco’s story depicts the needs and capabilities of these children, the familial and parental support for the children to get involved in the community and world around them. The power of the parents whose children have developmental issues is, therefore, enormous and precious. But as parents fight and struggle, each in their own way, the years go by and they get tired and spent. They lack different support services, of which the break from parenting is the most important one (free of charge and available all year round), and also possibilities of employment in legally more flexible forms that would allow shortened working hours or work from home, specialized counselling, education, financial and moral support. Their efforts are to be admired and not pitied. The same goes for the talented Marko, who showed us that special needs are a relative category and that when each of us is provided with interest, support and infinite love the progress is guaranteed.
I am acquainted with and I follow the work of many parents and their associations. Investing in them is by no means an expanse for the government, but an investment, the cheapest and the most humane. If these parents feel powerless to help their children then that powerlessness is shared, it belongs to the government, the profession, and the professionals.
Sociologist, journalist, playwright, social therapist, educator, storyteller. She published seven books including compilations of short stories: Pozdravi nekog (Say hello to someone), Bol za poneti (Pain to go) and Vratite mi moje koze (Give me back my goats), and sociological studies: “Social status and models of social protection of the elderly in Belgrade” (2009, Belgrade, Čigoja and Institute for Sociological Research), “Etiquette of ageing or ageing denial” (2013, Čigoja, Belgrade), “Aging without (self) censorship’’ (2020, Belgrade, Plavi krug). She also wrote two theatre plays: Vratite mi moje koze (Give me back my goats) (2007-2010) and Izvinite koliko imate godina? (Excuse me how old are you?) – an omnibus of five stories, which has been on the repertoire of Pan Theatre for the past three years.
Source: Social Inclusion Blog
Click here for more blogs authored by Radmila Urošević.
If you’re interested in reading more blogs on the topic of social inclusion, click here.