It was Sunday school on Valentine’s Day. The topic was the fact that Jesus loves everyone. The characters were Jesus and Matthew and Matthew’s tax collector friends.
The major challenge: find a way to show a classroom of blond-haired, blue-eyed children how there are so many different kinds of people in the world.
Clearly, looking at our class where I have the darkest hair, there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of first-hand examples, so I decided to make a trip to the library. I could have gone to the one in Lowell, but I knew the one between my work and home was significantly larger, so it gave me hopes that I would more likely be able to find something to help me out.
Walking into the children’s section at the library was incredibly overwhelming. Where was I supposed to find a book with photos of lots of different kids in between Angelina Ballerina and Walter the Farting Dog?
I walked to the front desk, and I talked to the librarian at the counter. She told me that our libraries are trying to place an emphasis on multicultural awareness, so there should be something for me. She then asked how old the kids were. I said between two and five.
“Sadly,” she said, “we have decided to make the program cover everyone except preschool age because no one makes multicultural books for preschoolers.” How disappointing. (As I look back, I think it’d be a great area to market, but at the time, all I could think about was how irritated I was.)
She then directed me to the children’s librarian, who directed me to a couple books, but they didn’t have a variety of people in any one of them. She seemed annoyed with me when I said, “Are there any books with less painted pictures?” She eventually found the perfect book with a ton of National Geographic pictures in it (everything from a kid herding cows in Africa to Amish kids playing ball in Pennsylvania).
The following Sunday we continued to learn about how there were differences between us and other people in the world by what we ate. I brought in tortilla chips, rice (with chopsticks) and bananas. I was impressed that the two oldest were able to use their chopsticks pretty well. We also talked about how a missionary is someone who tells people in other countries that Jesus loves them and sometimes they make sure the other people have a Bible in their language. As always, it was a thrill to see the excited looks on each of the children’s faces when they heard all of this.
For all that learning those kids have been doing, they somehow managed to associate the word “Europe” with “syrup.” But that’s preschoolers for you.