Susan Steen (2)

Steen

“But the little boy said

There are so many colors in the rainbow

So many colors in the morning sun

So many colors in the flower and I see every one.” — Harry Chapin

The jar of colored pencils delights my eyes. I keep them where I can see them because they serve as a reminder of how people come in as many colors as the pencils or crayons do.

The first time I heard Harry Chapin sing about the little boy whose teacher shamed him for not coloring flowers red and leaves green, I felt great sadness and realized how many children are met by the same rigid perspective the entire time they are in school, unless they are finally gifted with a teacher who wants to open their eyes to a more vivid world.

But you are not in elementary school. Chances are you are an adult, perhaps one with many years of living under your belt, and the question for you is, How many colors do you see in your world?

There are so many correlations we can draw between things we see in the world and things happening in life. The key, though, is that we must look for the lessons. For instance, I learned today that the blonde roast coffee is stronger than the dark roast. I’m also blonde, and the lesson to me is that looks can be deceiving. There is a whole big lesson in that, don’t you think? (especially for the people who make jokes about dumb blondes) The lessons. I am always looking for the lessons.

Back to that jar of colored pencils. That’s another place I’ve learned looks can be deceiving. I always want to reach for the pencil with the sharpest point, thinking it will be the most pleasant with which to write or draw. No one wants the dull point, right?

Too often, though, that sharp point falls right out and leaves a big hole in the pencil. The lesson there is that people are a lot like those pencils — the sharpest appearing aren’t always the most dependable; it is often the one who looks a little worn and dull that can really get the job done. Yes, the lessons are there if we look for them.

We have a wonderful dog, Mac. He has taught me a few lessons: to shake things off — like when we get caught in the rain, he shakes off the water while I look for cover; to be alert for intruders and be warm and fuzzy once I see they are safe; to not be so shy about claiming space for myself. Our dogs and cats through the years have taught me how important it is to get enough sleep. I’m still working on embracing that lesson.

There are lessons I’ve learned from history — my own and the world’s.

  • · Don’t let bleach splash or you could ruin clothing.
  • · Things matter less than people.
  • · It’s OK to order dessert first, in case you’re too full at the end of your meal.
  • · Eleanor Roosevelt has taught me that believing in my dreams makes a difference.
  • · Rosa Parks has taught me that sometimes I will need to stand up for what’s right even when it is uncomfortable.
  • · Friends who have been sick have taught me that there is usually more than one way to approach healing.
  • · Seeing the massive trash heap in the town where I live has helped me choose to learn lessons about recycling and composting that I might have put off a little longer.

Like the colors of the box of 50 Colored Pencils, people come in many different colors, and not just skin color. We are colored by our experiences. If we have learned the lessons along the way, we have changed because of them.

When you talk to me about issues today, my views have changed from the views I had 10 or 20 years ago. Maybe the lead in my colored pencil is a little more worn and less concerned with being the most appealing. I want to be the most useful, and allowing my views to be colored by my experiences is key to that success.

That little boy who started kindergarten knew what he saw — a wonderful array of colors in the rainbow, translating to the pictures he was coloring. It was when a teacher or other adult shamed a child for his opinion that the damage began.

Whether your child is 5 or 55, whether you have children or just see them in your daily walk, encourage them to continue seeing life with open eyes and an open heart. Will you and I allow that little boy to experience the colors of the rainbow, or will we demand that he see flowers as red and leaves as green, or however we believe they should be seen?

More importantly, are you allowing yourself to experience the colors of the rainbow in the world you see, or are you rigidly sticking with the way things have always been?

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