Gloom, doom, sorrow… I admit to feeling all of these. Though the morning was beautiful and warmed by a sun that slanted softly through the trees, nothing seemed right in the world. For here in my hand was a newspaper article about a teenager shot to death in Florida, shot for no apparent reason except that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and that he happened to be an African American.
Shouldn’t we have learned by now that prejudice is wrong? the worst form of bullying? Years ago I’d felt compelled to write Candle In the Wind after a young Japanese exchange student was shot on Halloween night by a suspicious house owner—killed while he was walking away from the shooter. The parallel between that tragedy and the one in Florida was too strong to ignore, the message too awful to set aside. We have not yet learned to look through differences and see the human being within, I thought, sadly. Perhaps we will never learn.
And then came the dolphins.
They arrived by way of a short video clip sent by my good friend ‘up north,’ a clip that related what had happened on a sun-bright beach in Brazil. People were strolling, enjoying the day, relaxing on that peaceful, far-away beach, when suddenly…. what was this turmoil out in the ocean? Waves had begun to churn and roil, and suddenly I saw that at least a dozen disoriented dolphins were plunging shoreward. On they came until beached, helpless, the great creatures flopped and twisted desperately on dry sand.
What a tragedy! But before I could fully process what had happened, people on the beach leaped into action. Young men rushed to the dolphins and began to lift and pull them back into the water. Within minutes, the dolphins had been rescued! Turned toward deep water, they were swimming vigorously out to sea.
They leap joyously,
Great fish, once doomed but now free,
Swimming toward home.
Everyone on the beach cheered and clapped, and watching, I thought… we are never helpless; we can change things. If we can be taught to fear or hate people who have different eyes or skin or who believe differently from us, we can also be taught to accept, to appreciate, and to see with clear eyes that we are all members of the human race.
Recently, I read an article by Suzanne Morgan Williams in the SCBWI Bulletin (March/April 2012) about the importance of writing for and about children from all countries, backgrounds and cultures. So much work has already been done in this field, but the task is never ending and opens the door for those of us who are writers and artists! The teachers and librarians among us can choose to read and discuss such books, while showing by word and deed that to embrace a difference is to discover similarities. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends… all of us can walk the walk that children will follow.
If only we could demonstrate by our work and by our lives that the great goal of our time is to see people clearly, what a world we could make! And in such a world children everywhere would be able to travel into the deepest waters, travel in safety and with joy.
To free captive minds
Is like breaking clouds apart
To bring back the sun.