The Simplified World of Rand McNally and Francis
Each Thursday I volunteer in my child’s classroom (ages 6 through 9). Today as I enter the room it is quiet, save for the teacher’s booming voice. The children are still and focused–their eyes glued to the picture book he is reading from. On the wall above their heads is a Rand McNally Map on a roller-shade. It is pulled down just enough for me to see the map’s title; “Simplified World,” and just the southern hemisphere of an oval shaped earth, flattened and slightly stretched. All around the room narrow paper banners printed with the classroom values are tacked up; “Active Listening,” “No Put-Downs,” “Truthfulness,” “Trustworthiness,” and “Personal Best.”
Mr. J, their teacher, is reading a book about Martin Luther King, Jr. I hear his words telling a story about segregation, Rosa Parks, Jim Crow laws, protests, and the civil rights movement. The book is gently written and filled with beautiful illustrations that are in stark contrast to the painful story of prejudice being told. At one point I hear the teacher read aloud Mr. King’s own words; “Love is the key to the problems of the world,” and I wonder to myself how much of this big message is getting through to the children.
The last page of the book is a collage of “mighty big words” from the story. They are; Freedom, Peace, Together, and Love. Mr. J asks the kids, “Why do you suppose the author calls these words ‘mighty big’?” A little girl raises her hand. She is eight years old. Her name is Francis. Francis offers up this beautiful answer; “Because even though the words don’t have a lot of letters, they still really mean a lot.”
And just like that my faith in this big, flat, and distorted ’Simplified World’ is restored.
Thank you Francis.
There is so much divinity in the everyday.