Finger Paints and Crayons
With chalk in hand she wrote her name across a board once bare
And then she sat behind her desk without a single care
And for fifteen minutes, she did not make a sound
Until the final student, had finally settled down
Then she stood before them, and told them all her name
And then politely asked, each student to do the same
Then without hesitation, she took papers from a sack
And placed them in two piles, one white, the other black
And deliberately quite slowly, with a slight, mischievous smile
She began handing out the papers, up and down each aisle
And once each student had a piece; she continued within their sights
To gather two piles of crayons, one black, the other white
And then she took a painting, from behind her walnut desk
Then place painter’s smock, overtop her navy dress
And to no one in particular, she spoke in peaceful tones
"I've been working on this painting, for years in my own home."
She stood staring at the painting, its brilliant colors mixed as one
Upon a vast horizon, the presence of a sun
It indeed was not a Rembrandt, a Picasso, or Michelangelo to say the least
But it nonetheless was beautiful; its presence spoke of peace
And no doubt that lovely painting, had taken so much time
For every color known to man, seemed to intertwine
And so it came with wonder, what they witnessed with surprise
The act that took them all off guard, done right before their eyes
With finger paints now gathered, and opened on her desk
She smeared the colors upon her hands, in an entangled awful mess
And then as though she'd lost her mind, she smeared her hands across
The painting once so a total loss
It did not make a bit of sense, they did not understand
As they sat and watched their teacher, wipe the paints from off her hands
And trhen she took the crayons, and went up and down the rows
And handed to each student, the colors that she chose
"Now," she told her students, "I want you to create
A picture filled with beauty, devoid of any hate."
Mouths dropped open widely; mumbles filled the room
And students looked to one another, as unasked questions seemed to loom
For the students with white paper, were given crayons the same shade
And the students with black crayons, had been given a raven-colored page
And how could one create splendor, with no colors to mix and match
The students were quite certain, their teacher had left out most the facts
"Teacher," a student's voice was heard, "I'm not so sure I can"
Staring at the white crayon, and white paper in her hand
Silence overtook the room; it eerily crept about
Causing the teacher's gentle voice, to erupt into a shout
"You each share the same problem, you each possess the power to resolve
But only the students with open minds, will have the ability to solve.”
Minutes ticked away, class was nearing to an end
And not one single student, knew quite how to begin
And when the bell rang out, and they hurried to their feet
Their teacher told them commandingly, to return back to their seat
"Before you leave this classroom, I think you each should know
For this assignment you receive a failing grade, for you have no work to show
And tomorrow and the next day, your assignment shall be the same
And those who fail my class, will have only themselves to blame."
The next day and the following, students weren't quite sure what to do
Until at last, a solution, began to surface though
When one student with his crayon, and paper both in black
Turned to the student behind him and asked, "May I borrow that?"
The student hesitated, but then gave up his crayon made of white
And ultimately the assignment, no longer seemed a plight
For students all throughout the class, switched crayons up and down the aisles
And certain that they'd found the solution, their faces lit with smiles
And just as every student began to draw, across an empty page
The teacher whom they'd all began, to see as certainly quite strange
Collected all the pages and crayons, without a single mark
And then spoke aloud, "Thank you, for bringing hope into my heart
You see, I wanted you to realize, that in order to create
A picture filled with beauty, devoid of any hate
You needed first to recognize, that a problem did exist
And that a practical solution, could be found within your midst
And that racism is a problem, each of us must face
Working all as one, before it's much too late
And with open eyes and open hearts, we must see the person, not the color of their skin
And come to the understanding, that racism has to end
For together we are family, we cry tears, we all feel pain
And though we may not look the part, that's exactly what we do
For crayons are just colors, that's all our skin is, too."
Students looked about the room, a variety of colors on their skin
As the point she was trying to make, began to settle in
The looks upon their faces, readily explained
That they each were trying to contemplate: that indeed were the same
A nervous shuffling of papers, and coughs throughout the room
Portraying the vital image, that fighting over crayons was a stupid thing to do
It was then each student realized, the purpose of crayons and papers the same shade
Was to prove they each needed the other color, to help fill their empty page
Silence seized the moment, as one student raised his open hand
And then spoke in hesitation, "I just don't understand...
Why you took your painting, the one you seem ed to enjoy so very much
Gathered up your finger paints, to destroy it in a touch."
Sadness filed her face, as a tear trailed upon her cheek
And in slow and heartfelt words, she began to speak
"To show you each that colors can be beautiful, but they also can destroy
Everything we love and work for, everything we each enjoy
And the destruction of something that I loved, was to make a point to you
That racism destroys the beauty in us all,
And that fighting over colors, is a destructive thing to do."

- Cheryl Costello-Forshey