Domestic Discovery: Outside groups explore Cincinnati’s many colors

by Harrison Lott

It’s amazing what a few scraps of paper and a couple of crayons can do. In the hands of a well-trained artist, they become an extension of the soul, capable of creating a visual masterpiece. In the hands of a child they are something to play with, giving free reign to the imagination. In my hands, however, as well as those of kids and adults from around the country, they are a means of discovery.

For the past two weeks here at the Coalition for the Homeless, we have had service groups from Texas and Missouri descend upon our doors in order to learn as well as serve. Their main task was to make decorations for the GCCH parade float that was featured in last weekend’s Northside Fourth of July Parade; so each day for three hours, we sat in the conference room cutting, coloring,
and most importantly — connecting.

These groups traveled hundreds of miles to experience something unfamiliar— to step outside of their comfort zone and discover things about the world, and themselves, that they had no idea existed. Their discoveries were widespread. They learned about serious issues like homelessness and poverty, as well as more trivial things like Skyline Chili and that I ask for a “pop” when I want a bubbly soft drink.

To them, Cincinnati represented the unknown, a blank canvas that they could paint with new experiences and new ways of thinking. To me, a Cincinnati-native, that was a little harder to see. My canvas has years of brush strokes and pencil marks, decades of color and contrast, all of which can get in the way of discovery.

But that doesn’t mean that I am unable to discover. In fact, perhaps the most important means of discovery comes when you think you have nothing left to discover at all. When you are familiar with something it is easy to become complacent. It is easy to get stuck in a routine and become blinded to the colorful, complex world that surrounds you. There are so many opportunities to discover that we pass up everyday because we feel as if we are too familiar with things.

My canvas is littered with missed opportunities and experiences. For the longest time, I was too focused on my routine to discover my creative side. Now I love acting. For the longest time, I was too concerned with my routine to put much effort
into new friendships. Now I’ve formed friendships with a variety of different groups. And for the longest time, I thought my city was boring and resistant to change, but now I spend more time downtown than I do at home—and that time is spent working to
effect the very change I once thought impossible.

So I invite you to look beyond what you think you know, both about yourself, others, and your world in general. Look for those moments of discovery in everyday life. Seek to fill your canvas with new colors and brush stokes. Don’t be afraid of messing up, either, because every day brings with it an opportunity to repaint your canvas, to start anew and change your world.

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