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The Little Boy

The Little Boy

A parable for our times

Once a little boy went to school.
He was quite a little boy.
And it was quite a big school.
But when the little boy
found that he could go to his room
by walking right in from the door outside,
he was happy.
And the school did not seem
quite so big anymore.

One morning
when the little boy had been in school a while.
the teacher said:
‘Today we are going to make a picture.’
‘Good!’ thought the little boy.
He liked to make pictures.
He could make all kinds:
lions and tigers,
chickens and cows,
trains and boats…
and he took out his box of crayons
and began to draw.

But the teacher said, ‘Wait!
It is not time to begin!’
And she waited until everyone looked ready.

‘Now,’ said the teacher,
‘We are going to make flowers.’
‘Good!’ thought the little boy.
He liked to make flowers,
and he began to make beautiful ones
with his pink and orange and blue crayons.

But the teacher said, ‘Wait! And I will show you how.’
And it was red, with a green stem.
‘There,’ said the teacher. ‘Now you can begin.’

The little boy looked at the teacher’s flower.
Then he look at his own flower.
He liked his flower better than the teacher’s.
But he did not say this.
He just turned the paper over
and made a flower like the teacher’s.
It was red, with a green stem.

On another day,
when the little boy had opened
the door from the outside all by himself,
the teacher said: ‘Today we are going to make something with clay.’
‘Good!’ thought the little boy.
He liked clay.

He could make all kinds of things with clay:
snakes and snowmen,
elephants and mice,
cars and trucks…
and he began to pull and pinch
his ball of clay.

But the teacher said,
‘Wait! It is not time to begin.’
And she waited until everyone looked ready.

‘Now,’ said the teacher.
‘We are going to make a dish.’
‘Good!’ thought the little boy.
He liked to make dishes,
and he began to make some
that were all shapes and sizes.

Then the teacher said, ‘Wait! And I will show you how.’
And she showed everyone how to make
one deep dish.
‘There,’ said the teacher, ‘Now you may begin.’

The little boy looked at the teacher’s dish.
Then he looked at his own.
He liked his dishes better than the teacher’s.
But he did not say this.
He just rolled his clay into a big ball again
and made a dish like the teacher’s.
It was a deep dish.

And pretty soon
the little boy learned to wait,
and to watch,
and to make things just like the teacher.
And pretty soon
he didn’t make things of his own anymore.

Then it happened
that the little boy and his family
moved to another house
in another city,
and the little boy
had to go to another school.

This school was even bigger
than the other one,
and there was no door from the outside
into his room.
He had to go up some big steps,
and walk down a long hall
to get to his room.

And the very first day
he was there,
the teacher said: ‘Today, we’re going to make a picture.’
‘Good!’ thought the little boy.
And he waited for the teacher
to tell him what to do.
But the teacher didn’t say anything.
She just walked around the room.

When she came to the little boy
she said, ‘Don’t you want to make a picture?’
‘Yes,’ said the little boy, ‘what are we going to make?’
‘I don’t know until you make it,’ said the teacher.
‘How shall I make it?’ said the little boy.
‘Why, any way you like,’ said the teacher.
‘And any color?’ asked the little boy.
‘Any color,’ said the teacher.
‘If everyone made the same picture,
and used the same colors,
how would I know who made what
and which was which?’

‘I don’t know,’ said the little boy.

And he began to make a red flower
with a green stem.

~~ by Helen E. Buckley

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