Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Art (01/18/07)
TITLE: Little David And the Stick Man
By Mariane Holbrook
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Thirty-seven scrubbed faces smiled up at me. Thirty-seven!
This was my very first day of teaching many years ago and I looked around for something upon which to hang my fears. With this many students, it needed to be substantial.
I had been assigned to this county school filled with children whose parents worked in the nearby hosiery mills. Most lived in well-kept and not-so-well-kept trailer parks. Those mothers who had saved enough green stamps for the requisite framed print of Christ for their living rooms also saved to purchase petunias for the white-washed tire out front, filled with rich dirt from the natural compost behind Amos hosiery mill.
This first day of school was designated as “Get Acquainted Day.” It was a major adjustment for one beautifully dressed but anxious girl in the second row who kept rising to look out the window for any sign of her mother on the playground. I had pinned a name tag on the front of each student and on myself, eager for us to become a cohesive unit.
While passing out plain paper, crayons and newly-sharpened pencils to each of the children, I explained that this would be a happy day, a fun day for us to get to know each other. I asked how many of the students had crayons at home and how many liked to use them. Every hand shot up.
I was struck by how neat and precise David appeared to be but how rigidly he sat at his desk with his fists tautly closed as if at any given moment a crisis of Biblical proportions might occur and he didn’t want to be caught unprepared. I made a mental note to give him some classroom responsibilities as soon as possible.
“Children, I would like you to draw a picture of someone in your life whom you love very much. Think about it for a little while before you start drawing. It might be one of your parents, a sister or brother, a grandparent or neighbor, someone who is special to you. When you finish drawing and coloring your picture, you may raise your hand, tell us your name, and then describe your special person to the class.”
Immediately, the students began pursing their lips and squeezing their eyes tightly shut as if in deep concentration. Then, as if on cue, they began to draw on their papers.
Finished, they stood one after another beside their desks, held high their crayoned drawings and briefly related why the person they chose was important to them. It was a typical response, with Mothers and Fathers more often selected than anyone else.
Only one person remained who still had not raised his hand: David. I asked him if he were ready to share his story and he shook his head. Still talking, I eased my way over to his desk and found that his paper was blank.
David motioned for me to bend down so he could whisper in my ear, “I wanted to draw my father but I don’t know how. I can’t draw his clothes.”
Everyone in the classroom strained to hear David’s explanation. The room was eerily and uncomfortably quiet.
I started to help David draw a simple stick figure to get him started when he pulled me closer to him and whispered hoarsely in my ear, “He’s in prison. I can’t draw stripes.”
Stunned, I didn’t know whether to proceed to the next project or to deal with this now. Most importantly, I didn't want David to experience any shame or rejection by the rest of the students.
Again, David whispered in my ear, “But Daddy prayed and God has forgiven him.” His relief at finally spilling all this out was palpable.
With that, David quickly grabbed his crayon and drew a stick man. “How do you spell ‘Forgive,’ he whispered. “I want to draw it on his shirt.”
“Just make a large ‘F” like this,” I replied, my tears edging slowly down my cheeks and onto David's desk.
Completing his picture, David stood to proudly display it. “This is my dad. He’s different. He’s in prison but God's forgiven him and I love him more than anyone in the whole world,” David said.
He smiled broadly as each student stared uncomprehendingly at the picture and then at David.
Little David had faced his giant and Little David had won.
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