Art, Health Care & The Sharing of Gifts

Kindness and caring comes in all shapes and sizes. A simple idea to help area artisans obtain the health care they need in exchange for their time has led to colorful murals, dance therapy, music therapy, a stronger sense of community and so much more. But perhaps this successful program has more to teach us…

Started at Brooklyn’s Woodhull Hospital in New York in 1995, a bartering system makes one hour of an artist’s donated time worth $40 in medical services.

More details can be found on Wallet Pop and the New York Foundation for the Arts website. Now poetry, music, and colorful artwork fill the halls of one community hospital. Staff are trained on releasing bad news by actors, breast cancer patients are being taught yoga breathing, professional photographers are taking photos of newborns…the possibilities are virtually limitless with a little creative thinking.

I can remember back in the late 1980s the field of music therapy was just taking off and a college roommate planned to turn her considerable music talents into a way to heal people. Paulina returned to Finland with a renewed passion about her music despite being in her own words “not talented enough to be a concert pianist”. What did little old me know, I thought she was amazing. But, how much more rewarding it must be to do something more with her gifts than just entertain.

The idea of bartering isn’t a new one but in such a difficult time where jobs are hard to come by and money is so very tight for so many it’s refreshing to see people thinking outside the box and making things work. The hospital recognized that many working artists, like most small business owners, do not have the funds to afford individual insurance premiums that can be as high as $500 a month – $320 in my case!

This concept could be used in so many ways – the retired teacher or engineer providing tutoring in exchange for their grass being mowed, fresh cut garden flowers or homegrown veggies in exchange for a ride somewhere, the list goes on. There’s such a wealth of knowledge and abilities out there. We should be looking for more ways to help ourselves and each other. Why must every transaction be based on money?

A few suggestions for further reading...

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