My take on the WordPress weekly theme of “against the odds” is an invitation for all of us to fully appreciate, celebrate and honour our early life experiences.

Here are some artworks for the next series of visual meditations. Before I start recording over the next week or so, I’d love to see links to your memoir photos, or hear back from you about what you see in these pictures.

It’s no small thing to fully connect with the pain and powerless we experienced before society recognised us as “adults”. Yet, do you sense that our homes, streets and workplaces would be much safer if more people were compassionately conscious of their early experiences?

Why remember at all?

By receiving early memories with gentle curiousity, I always find a vast storehouse of compassion and courage. And those are the two rare qualities which I believe inspire and sustain people to see new ways that we can choose to make a difference “against the odds”. 

By celebrating the strength it took to survive our early years, we can keep discovering that we are not as powerless as we might believe. That insight contributes to my children, my workplace and the community because I’m less likely to act out of fear or habit … and increasingly able to find compassionate courage to respond to whatever is happening at home or work or in my community.

Courage seen … and unseen

As I searched for classic artwork that is available for free use,  I noticed that there is not a great diversity of gender or skin. I’m sad about that and invite you to bring a wider lens to these images. Here are some questions you might find interesting to explore as you look through the artworks below.

  • What aspects of humanity are not visible here in these “classic” artworks? 
  • Regardless of gender or skin or age, what human needs do you see expressed in these images that we all share?
  • What would you like to see more fully shown? 
  • What painful aspects of your childhood might you fully hear and celebrate now for the strength it took to adapt and survive? 
  • In what ways does being called “child” affect our access to resources and having needs met such as respect, contribution, purpose, consideration, mattering?
  • Who showed you compassion and understanding as a child, helping you to see other ways of relating to the world? Perhaps a teacher, a neighbour, a grandparent, a carer, a sibling, a friend …?

1. Presence – how much understanding did you experience for your inner world?

Mary Cassatt, ‘Child in a straw hat’

2. Choice – even if you were led by the hand for own safety, how was it also painful or frustrating?

Edouard Vuillard, ‘Child Wearing a Red Scarf’

3. Freedom – how easy was it for you to choose your own hopes and dreams in life?

Eva Gonzales, ‘Nanny & Child’

4. Play – what was your experience of play with others who had more power or resources? 

Auguste Renoir, ‘Child with toys – Gabrielle and the Artist’s Son’

5. Contribution – what was your experience of tasks around the home, community or business? 

Pieter De Hooch, ‘Woman and Child in a Courtyard’


All images are courtesy of The National Gallery of Art, Washington. I so appreciate having access to such a rich, freely available source of inspiration and want to thank everyone who’s made that possible through policies, technical skills, funds and personal energy.


I want to incorporate a range of observations when I record the meditations on each of these artworks. 

Would you like to reply below?

I’d love to hear one aspect of courage you see in your own childhood. Or, you might like to comment on the feelings and needs you see in these artworks? Feel free to link to a relevant blog post of your own on this topic – memoir, poem, art, photo etc.

Above all, thanks for giving your time to read this and reflect compassionately on the experience of childhood. I see your choice as an gift of courage that will enrich you and the people in your world.