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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

My Daughter's Crayons (written by Tim Keiderling)

“Daddy, I want to color!” These are the first words out of my daughter’s mouth every day when she dashes in our front door after kindergarten. I can tell she has something in her mind that needs to get on paper. She doesn’t have time to take off her jacket or sit down, or even go to the bathroom. I rush the box of crayon stubs and the paper onto the table where she stands next to her chair. She is fidgeting from one foot to the other in a way we grownups know means that something urgent is being put off too long.

But how can I stop her? My wonderful girl—hair disheveled from the dash home, tongue sticking out between her teeth in concentration, jacket fallen down behind her shoulders with the sleeves bunched around her elbows. She is coloring furiously, filling that clean, white sheet with the images that fill her mind: flowers, trees, daddies, children, sunshine, angels, mommies. Every face wears that little upward curve that seems to be the natural human expression in my child’s world. It means happy.

Watching my daughter, I have come to believe that my college psychology teacher was wrong. The fundamental human drive – what it is that we most want to do and need to do – is not to have sex, nor to have power. It is to create. That’s what “soul” is. That’s what makes us human. I don’t mean my daughter (or most of the rest of us) will ever be a great composer or painter. But what is life anyway, if it isn’t a clean sheet of white paper? And what is life’s meaning if it isn’t to fill the paper with beauty?

But where to start? The best medium, better even than crayon, is the simplest act of love for others. The desire to sacrifice, to suffer patiently, to appreciate nature reverently—all are impulses toward a creative life. This weekend I read profiles of some of the young U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. They all were happy six-year-olds at one time. They wanted to fill their paper with a masterpiece that was all their own. They were proud to serve. They were ready to give everything they had. And then there are the fallen Iraqis, soldiers and civilians. And too many children. What varied and exquisite lives are being snuffed out when they have scarcely had time to touch pen to paper?

My daughter looks up at me triumphantly, flushed with the enthusiasm of one who has completed a great work while under extreme inner duress—she still can’t stand still. “Look Daddy, this is an Easter Bunny hiding eggs for me and Mommy and you!”
So that is what was on her mind. I never would have guessed. I couldn’t have drawn that picture. It is hers. But suddenly I want more than anything to be sure her paper is as big and un-smudged as possible. I want her crayon set to be brand new like the ones we got her on the first day of kindergarten.

As a father, perhaps that is what I wish for my child more than anything else. I want her to fill her paper with the vibrant colors of love. Every child born has such a set. Teach them to use it and to love doing it. This is the “more excellent way.” This is the way they can create what is most truly their very own in all its special beauty.

To create is to be happy. The only unhappy ones among us are those who lost their crayons somewhere along the way, who forgot about the sheet of paper. Maybe they thought they could scribble on it and then crumple it up and throw it away. But you can’t do that with this sheet.
No creative effort is wasted. Someday we’ll grasp the harmony of a design so mighty that we presently have a hard time following a single line of its pattern. Eternity won’t be long enough to contemplate the subtlety of its detail, the explosive joy of its color. My handiwork, yours, and that of our enemy will be in it. None will be too awkward or confused. So I say, may each of our children come home safely. And may we make time for the artwork that waits to spring from them out of God’s endless imagination.
-Tim Keiderling


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