beside the point

Mrs. Brightman’s class took time after snacks to reflect on the hours gone by and their learning experiences of the morning. She enjoyed having the children giggling, moving and animated, expressing themselves through art. After milk and cookies or juice and string cheese or goldfish crackers, the children felt more relaxed and eagerly chose from a barrage of colored pencils in Mrs. Brightman’s oversized tin box. At this hour, the sun too shined happily through classroom windows like streams of smiles. Children took turns to dive their tiny hands into the deep tin container, grabbing little handfuls of colors, most of which dazzled their eyes and minds as they created autumn pictures for their classroom.
A budding perfectionist, Aaron reached carefully inside the vintage tin, his delicate fingers curled around a favorite colored pencil, only to find the end broken off and unusable. So, he shifted the pencils as he excavated more and more, in an attempt to find the exact color of his liking, back and forth moving pencils from one side of the tin to the other. Other children returned pencils, much less attentive than Aaron in selecting just the right hue. For most children, any color would have sufficed. Yet, when Aaron held a particular idea close to him, his intensity in its fulfillment wouldn’t easily cease. He was a master, even at ten, at self-expression.
Suddenly , Aaron removed his hand from the box, and surrendering to a frown, rested the tin box on one of the desks and went to his seat, thudding as he sat. He rested his chin in his cupped hands as a pout began to pop from his usual grin. Although Mrs. Brightman had the class of twenty-three to watch, she felt the shift in Aaron’s humor and gently approached his desk.
“Aaron?” Mrs. Brightman’s voice rose in anticipation of a response without even asking a question.
“Mrs. Brightman,” started Aaron, “I don’t like how we waste so much time!”
“We aren’t wasting time, Aaron! Everyone is using colors to make their autumn pictures….except you! What’s wrong, dear?” Mrs. Brightman curiously turned her head to the side as if she might see his issue more clearly from another vantage point.
“Yes, everyone is using their favorite colored pencils to color their pictures. And that’s good. But when they finish with their colors, they put them back broken or not sharpened. So I’ll have to take the colors I want and sharpen them all to be able to use them and finish my picture. And that wastes a lot of time!”
Mrs. Brightman’s eyes glistened as she understood the profound wisdom in Aaron’s realization. With a smile and resolve, she asked all the children to take ten pencils each and line up, one by one, at the electric pencil sharpener. In no time, by taking turns, two hundred thirty brilliant colored pencils emerged, each with a sharp point, ready to finish a classroom of autumn pictures for display, to the delight of all the children, but especially Aaron.
Using resources for our own consumption has become a necessary commodity for which we should all be grateful. But there are those who follow us, who also have the right and the privilege to use those same commodities for their own benefit. Why shouldn’t we be as mindful of others and leave places, resources, utilities in as fine a form as they were found, or better yet, improve upon them, leaving them better than we found them?
It is only through a complete understanding of the gifts that surround us which we should all be able to share, and whose care is our responsibility, that our lives become enriched. If everyone were encouraged to understand how their fair contributions, according to their means, share in replenishing resources rather than leaving a burden for others to resolve, our communities and our world could conceivably be a more just and equitable place in which to live and thrive.
colored pencils


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