Jodi Hills

So this is who I am – a writer that paints, a painter that writes…


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My most expensive finger.

I hit it on the door yesterday, my most expensive finger. It seems it is always taking a beating. It’s my left index finger. I am right handed, and an artist, so my right hand gets all the praise and the protection. But perhaps my left hand is the unsung hero. It’s always being asked to do the, at best unglamorous, sometimes dangerous, things, like – “Hold this nail, don’t worry, it’s just a hammer,” or “Brace the ruler while I cut with this knife.” It has been cut and battered and bruised, and it still supports, every time it is asked.

I had only been in France a short time when I cut this finger. Cut it deep. Even the tendon. I needed surgery. I had no insurance, or faith in the system, or a grasp of the language even. I was afraid. Afraid of the doctors, the procedure, how I was going to pay for it… everything. But the fear was wasted, as it is most of the time. The surgery worked. I sold a painting. My finger healed. The bill was paid. (How fitting that the right would in turn support the left.) And this most expensive finger now continues to show up daily to perform the uncelebrated tasks.

But I want to celebrate them. This finger. The unsung heroes. Those who have shown up for me daily. I hope I thank them properly. Invest in them. With time and resources, emotions and praise. They deserve it. I know I can do better. I know we can do better – investing in these everyday heroes who show up, only asking, “How can I help?”

I grab the brush with my right hand and give thanks.


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Mother helped me believe not all things are bad, many things are good.

How do you know to believe if no one has ever believed in you? 
After the publication of my second book, “Believe,” I was asked to read it to a group of inner city kids in Minneapolis.  I’m not sure I like the term inner city.  In the US, the term inner city has been used as a euphamism for lower income residential districts. I wasn’t labeled this as a kid, probably because I was white, but certainly, in terms of income, I was no different.  Maybe the only difference between us was I had someone who believed in me. My mother.


When I finished reading the book to them, which ends, “I believe in you,” most of the kids were quiet, almost stunned.  I looked around, hoping for some reaction.  I looked directly at the largest boy in the group.  I knew if I could get a response from him, the others might follow.  I smiled in his direction. I kept smiling.  He made eye contact, so I asked how he felt about the book, did he have any thoughts?  He said, with no pity, no hesitation, “No one has ever told me they believed in me before.”  The others nodded.  


My heart wanted to cry, but I kept smiling. I was honored to be the first, I said, but I would not be the last. Once you hear it, it cannot be denied. Never unheard.  Now you must live it. 

We painted a mural for their school with the words below. They grabbed brushes confidently, loudly, boldly, and painted themselves a future.


We are born with our eyes and our hearts wide open. Innocence and youth make it so easy to believe…so easy to fall asleep in someone’s arms, to trust in smiles, to see animals float across the sky…to believe your summer will never end.This gift that we’re given – to not just hope – but truly believe in people and feeling and all these things under the sun…this ability to act like it all matters…where does that gift go? Why does time and experience have to wear it away, instead of building on it? At what point do we lose the courage to believe and then just start hoping? And why do some give up completely?Now, I am not the most courageous of sorts…but I’m not willing to give up this most precious gift, for me or for you. I know it won’t be easy, and I know it shouldn’t be. And I’m going to fight for it, every day. Because inside this beautiful struggle to believe, we are given the power to comfort, to heal, to inspire and to love.As I get older, I know my summers may not last forever, but I’m not going to stop believing in the chances that rise with each morning sun. And I know it matters…it always does…the things we do, the things we say, the lives we lead, and the hearts we touch.I want to see giraffes float by, instead of gray clouds. I want to feel the sun, deep inside of me, even when it isn’t shining. I have to believe in myself enough to have the courage to say “I love you,” and mean it…and have the strength to hear “I love you” and really feel it.I believe all this can happen for me, and I believe it can happen for you.

We hung this in their school. I pray it reached their inner-most souls.  

Hang this on your heart today, “I believe in you.”