Everyone has a story to tell. High profile artists, athletes and public figures rule the world of television, telling their story of rags to riches and the ladder climb to fame. We can all find inspiration in being lifted by a God-given gift, and put on the big stage to show every regular Joe the wonders of hard work and perfect timing.
There are, however, those people who pass quietly through the lives of others with a heck of a story themselves. There are no cameras to record their work, or bags of money and a Nike contract to show their worth. Still, they are magical people with hearts of pure gold. When we stop to chat with them we leave with a rekindling of purpose and the pleasure of finding an invaluable friend. 71-year-old Ora Hunt, III stopped to share his story, and listening adds more to our humanity than dollars and cents.
Born in the rural city of Adairsville, Ga., Hunt’s life was shaped by the examples of his family. He would sit and watch his grandmother knit ornate quilts and mend the broken fabric of his clothes that wore with time. As he became older, he would relate art with love and a spirit of giving was born inside of him that he wanted to share with others. “She was the artist who inspired me first,” Hunt recalls, “because of all the beautiful things she could do with thread.”
Hunt’s grandmother died when he was still very young, so he packed his things and moved to Connecticut with his aunt and her two children. One of the items he did not forget to include in his luggage was the drive to create things that were beautiful. His medium was drawing and painting landscapes he had seen as a child, documenting what made him full with contentment and brought him peace. “I learned that art would bring me pleasure, much like I imagined it would do for my grandmother. That is why I still do it today, and I always will,” he says.
As he became older, Hunt found a career in Connecticut. “I worked for an aircraft company building airplanes,” Hunt explains, “and I retired after working there for 20 years. But I came back to Adairsville when my mother became ill. My father had died in the Korean War, so she needed someone to care for her. In my family, we always take care of each other if we can.”
Still, he would always carry a sketch book and pencils of various colors to draw the things that made him happy and kept him grounded in his past.
“My mother would eventually get over her sickness and went back to work, but I stayed and took care of her anyway,” Hunt smiles. “I loved my mother. And I loved my grandmother and grandpop, and I missed my father who was killed in the war. My mother had some really hard times and she was a very interesting person herself. I will forever be grateful for what they have passed on to me.”
His caregivers were called home and Hunt continued to bring his memories to life in times of sorrow and difficulty. He found solace in his landscapes, stretching his memories across a blank page. From as far south as Florida, to the rolling hills of New England, he painted his mind’s pictures in vivid detail. Perhaps what is most profound, is that he would give his work to people he met, in hopes that they could also find the beauty in the things around them.
Tragedy often tries to break the human spirit, but some people refuse to crumble and rise stronger than before. “Two years ago, I had a stroke,” Hunt says, “and as you know it makes it difficult to write. The stroke caused me to not be able to use my right hand, but I am left handed. As a child, I learned to write with my right hand, so it has been a challenge to continue my art. I was just lucky to be able to use both of my hands to draw and write.”
Since his stroke, Hunt has powered through the illness and come out on the other side as a blue ribbon champion. In 2015, he was awarded two blue ribbons in the Coosa Valley Fair’s art competition for landscapes he’d drawn from his memory. In great detail, Hunt recreated a train depot with a city skyline spanning the background. People in the train, although small, give life to his work. One can imagine a small child, face pressed against the glass of the railcar cab, taking in the passing scenery. That child may grow to be an artist as well.
From candy in his pocket, to stories rich with heritage and life lessons, Hunt is always willing to share and make the lives of those around him a little bit better. “This one is for you,” he says as he lifts a colorful creation from the table and smiles with delight. The drawing is one of a horse running through a pasture and a bright red barn calling him home. His kind gesture is a perfect ending to his tale of perseverance and compassion.
If your hand is closed, no one can get anything out of it. But, God can’t put any blessings inside of it. We can all afford to give good stories to the people who make life worthwhile.