All that glitters…

Originally published March 2009 in the Dickinson County News

Sunday School teachers generally don’t get annoyed with crayon companies. But when I was young, I made one Sunday School teacher think twice about her love of the Crayola corporation.

It was an experiment that coincided with a lesson we were all being taught in elementary school: America is a melting pot. My teacher had big plans to illustrate this point one Sunday at church.

“I want each of you to bring a crayon to class next Sunday,” she said the week before.

Easy enough, I thought, as I went shopping for a unique crayon that Monday evening.

“We’ve got dozens of old crayons at home,” my mom argued. “Why do you need to get a new one?”

I didn’t know. I just wanted to be different. Little did I know that this desire to be different would destroy the lesson plan for the coming Sunday.

As planned, each member of my Sunday School class showed up with a crayon the next week. The teacher then took all of our crayons and melted them into one large clump. Blues and greens and oranges and violets. The colors all muddled together into the ugliest shade of brown I had ever seen.

“See,” the Sunday School teacher said, “when you take all the different colors, you get one mixture. There’s nothing left resembling what used to be. America is like that. We’re a completely new people.”

Hmmm. I didn’t like the illustration. Not only did the teacher turn a dozen brightly colored crayons into an ugly brown mess, but she had also compared that ugly mess to American society, the melting pot.

Later, when the brown glop of goo had cooled, the teacher broke it into pieces and gave each of us a piece to take home in order to “remember our lesson.”

I held my new ugly brown crayon in my hand and noticed something I hadn’t before.

It sparkled.

The blue glittered crayon I had chosen the previous Monday at the store had shared its greatest characteristic with all the other crayons.
I pointed out my gift to the teacher.

“Look,” I said. “You can see the sparkles from my crayon in the brown.”

She slowly nodded. “You can,” she replied in that “yeah, that’s nice” sort of manner.

I thought she missed it.

The fact that you could see these sparkles meant she was wrong – there was something left of what used to be. One of the greatest things had remained – the sparkles.

I tried a couple more times to get her to admit her error, but I quickly realized she didn’t want to argue with a young glitter-crazy student.

Despite her intentions, I came away with a different lesson on America: you can blend the cultures together to a degree, but sparkles are always going to stand out.

I think today they tell elementary students that America is a salad bowl – mixed not blended.

I don’t know whether the melting pot or the salad bowl is a more accurate description.

Strangely, I suppose I will always think of America as a big clump of brown with sparkles.