COUNCIL BLUFFS — Eric Samuel Timm of Rochester, Minnesota, combined art, humor and wisdom in a presentation earlier this month at St. Albert Junior-Senior High School in Council Bluffs.

The motivational speaker’s appearance at St. Albert and 10 other area schools was sponsored by TS Bank as part of its 20th annual TS Promise.

Timm dived right in, painting on a large white canvas as students and staff watched. A head began to take shape, but it wasn’t until he finished and turned the canvas on its side that people recognized the image as the face of Albert Einstein.

Einstein, of course, was a highly regarded and influential scientist, Timm said.

“It’s absolutely amazing how he changed the world with science,” he said. “I realized my life isn’t much like science. It’s more like art.”

While science questions generally have one answer, life’s questions have more than one answer, Timm said.

Sometimes life gives us things we didn’t ask for — like broken bones. If a person suffers a physical injury, it’s normal for them to seek medical treatment, Timm said.

“Why do we think, if it’s in what we consider the mental health realm, it’s weird to ask for help?” he said. “We have to remove this stigmata that seeing a counselor is weird.”

Mental health matters — especially during adolescence, Timm said.

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Timm fought his own battle with depression. He recalled an experience that became a turning point in his life. A teacher asked how he was doing. Usually when people asked that, he just said he was doing fine — whether he was or not. This time, he said, “I’m not doing so good. I feel miserable.”

The teacher asked him to tell her his story, he said. Her willingness to listen gave him hope.

“If it wasn’t for you — a teacher — I probably wouldn’t be here,” he said to teachers in the audience. “In my backpack, I had a note written in my own hand describing how I was going to kill myself.

“If you have a note like that,” he said, addressing students, “you need to show it to someone — a caring adult, not a friend. A friend will tell you what you want to hear; a teacher will tell you what you need to hear.”

Timm thanked teachers for what they do.

“The greatest thing you’ll ever give any of these children is not a diploma — it’s hope,” he said.

A windshield is bigger than a rear-view mirror, Timm reminded students.

“That’s because what’s ahead is always bigger than what’s behind,” he said.

Timm discovered he could “use art as a vehicle to land a message in a very ... compelling way that engages students.”

“Students don’t want to just sit there and listen to somebody,” he said. “I want to meet students where they’re at and take them to where they need to be.”

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