The Candy Dish

  • Dec. 11, 2015
  • #8770

A green candy dish made while in the hospital reminds Joni the best gift we can give is the gift of ourselves.

The Candy Dish

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with a story about my artwork.

As you know, I'm a quadriplegic, and that means that my legs and hands don’t work. Haven’t worked in a long, long time! And it means that I’ve had to learn how to write and type with my mouth. Also, I’ve learned to paint that way. I remember so clearly that first Christmas when I was still in the hospital recovering from my diving accident. My spinal cord injury was pretty serious and I knew I wouldn’t be going home for the holidays. While others in the hospital packed up and headed out, I had to stay behind. I remember feeling so sad that I wouldn’t be able to go out shopping with my sisters to get gifts. For me, that had always been such a fun part of getting ready for Christmas. But my occupational therapist had an idea. She said, “Joni, there’s no reason why you can’t create your own gifts here in the hospital.” I wasn’t sure what she meant, until she showed me several white plaster candy dishes. “Why don’t you paint these? I have some great Christmas colors, green and red paint that you can use.”

At first, I was hesitant. I was still new to the whole idea of holding pens and pencils and brushes between my teeth. I really wasn’t very skilled at handling a brush in my mouth; it was still cumbersome, and I drooled over everything. But my OT kept encouraging me on, and she said something that really hit home. She said, “Joni, your mother and father and your sisters would absolutely love receiving a hand-painted gift from you.” I corrected her and told her that it would be mouth-painted, not hand-painted! We both laughed and that broke the ice. I decided I would give it a try. So there I am, lying face down on a Stryker frame in occupational therapy (now, I should explain that a Stryker frame is a long flat and narrow canvas that you lie face down on to help alleviate pressure on your back, then they strap on another piece of canvas and flip you face up, so you can alleviate pressure that way).

Anyway! There I am lying face down and my occupational therapist slides a small table underneath my face close enough that I can reach it holding a brush between my teeth. She places on the little table the poster paint and candy dish, sticks the brush in my mouth, and tells me to “paint away!” And that I did. I slathered and swashed green paint on one candy dish, and red on the other. It took me a while to cover both dishes, but my OT was patient, moving the dishes this way and that so I could reach all of the corners. And I was pretty proud of myself; I didn’t even drool! The dishes were glazed and went into the kiln, and afterward, I was amazed how beautiful they looked. And my mom and dad were so delighted to receive something I had done with my mouth.

That was a long, long time ago, but I still have one green candy dish that I keep in my art studio to show visitors and to tell them that the best gift that we could ever give to another is the gift of ourselves. Just like God gave us Himself through the gift of His son Jesus. Hey, I’d love for you to stop by my radio page today at and see a photo of my green candy dish. After all of these years, it’s suffered no damage. And while you are there, ask for your free gift – it’s a fold-out of several of my Christmas paintings that I’d love to send you. Share it with an unsaved friend who doesn’t understand the reason for the season, and tell them the story of my candy dish (the fold-out even has a photo of me painting with my mouth). It’s all there for you on my radio page today at

© Joni and Friends


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