What a cross made of boxes taught me about authenticity

When I was home for the Easter holidays from university, I helped out a couple of years with the Holy Week Club at my then-church. It was mostly the kids from the Sunday School, and some of their friends, coming for a couple of hours each morning to do some activities, give their parents a break. Oh and learn about Easter.

One of the crafts we did each year was a cross made out of cardboard boxes, painted with different images from the Easter story (by the children), and then displayed in the church for the services.

One year, a particular woman, the Verger of the church, was helping.

The children duly painted the cross. While it was drying, she said she didn’t think it looked very good. Some of the images were messy, she said. People might not know what they were.

The kids who painted them will know, I told her. And it looks like children made it. Because children made it.

When I arrived at church the next day, the cross looked very different to how it had when I had left the day before.

The Verger announced to me that she just couldn’t stand that the artworks weren’t how they were ‘supposed’ to look, and had ‘neatened them up’.

It was monstrous of her. The work was no longer the children’s’. It had lost the most important qualities that any art or craft can have- authenticity (by which I mean it’s an expression of the person who made it), and love.

I talk a lot about not worrying about perfection on this blog. Because it’s important. When a child makes or paints something, they do it with joy, and they don’t worry about getting it absolutely perfect (at least not until they’re older). No matter how it looks, that makes it worth displaying.

Some of you reading this, I know, are frantically finishing your Christmas crafts. Just remember, if you’ve put love- for the person you’re giving it to, for the act of making something- into what you’re making, it’ll be beautiful.