Dick and Janet Pratt now live in Detroit Lakes, Minn., but they and their daughters Kari and Kelly once lived in Madison, Wis. It was there, Janet writes “Neighbors,” that Kari, who was 9, wrote a story about racism that was inspired by Marlene Cummings, a Black teacher in Kari’s school.
The Madison newspaper picked it up and ran it.
“The story is short and sweet and is on a very relevant topic right now,” Janet writes. Here it is, just as 9-year-old Kari wrote it:
Once there was a black crayon. He was a sad crayon. I wonder why. Could it be because he was black? Yes. The reason he was sad, is, he was never used! All the other colors were brighter, like orange, red, and yellow. When the children came to color a bright picture, he would be left all alone.
Do you know how it feels when you’re left out? I do, and so does the black crayon. You feel miserable and unhappy. Sometimes when you feel like this, you get angry. This is how he felt.
But as the children grew older they became wiser.
“Say!” they thought, “why don’t we try to use the black crayon to outline our pictures! Then they might stand out! Let’s try it.”
And so they did try it. It felt so good to the black crayon to get some exercise. He had laid in that box for a long time.
“Hey, look what the black crayon is doing!” thought the bright colors. “He’s making our picture brighter!”
And so he was! The children were so happy! But the black crayon was the happiest of them all.
And then, this…
Years after the joy of seeing her story gain a measure of fame, Kari was hit with a major downer: she developed cancer.
Last year, her mother wrote “Neighbors,” after Kari had been fighting cancer for about five years, she brought up the fact of death. “Mom, I’ve been thinking, is this what it is like to be dying of cancer?”
“After a pause,” Janet writes, “I said to her that although she might be right, only God can determine if that is so. He might just have you in mind for a very long, hard, slow recovery.”
And that’s the way it is today.
As to Marlene Cummings, the teacher who inspired Kari’s story, she died in Chicago at age 84 in 2020.
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