Danielle was only four when she burst through
the front door, having just gotten off the school
bus, after preschool. Charging through the living
room, she spotted me in the dining room and
launched into a speech while she headed toward
me. While it was comical to see such a little person
behave so dramatically, her outrage seemed real
enough that she had my full attention.
"They are MEAN to him!" she raged, her little fist
hammering the table top for emphasis.
"Who is mean to who?" I interrupted.
"Those kids on the bus! They are MEAN to the little
brown boy!" She looked up at me, hands on her hips,
her eyes wide, incredulous. I knew she expected me
to right this injustice immediately. It was the first one
she had discovered in her very new Out In The World
On Her Own adventures.
"They make fun of him and make fun of him and
make fun of him." Her golden head nodded emphatically
with each repetition. "They laugh at him. They copy the
way he talks. They hurt his feelings!" I watched her while
I listened. This was something very different for her, this
little girl I knew so well. I had never seen her just this
way before. I even saw flashes of anger in her green eyes.
"The way he talks...?" I prompted, as if she needed
prompting. I sat down at the table and set her on my lap.
"He doesn't talk perfect, but that's just because he's a
little kid!" this four-year-old elderly person informed
me loudly, inches from my face. She looked directly
into my eyes, needing answers. "WHY are they so MEAN?"
My husband and I had been a little apprehensive
about sending her to and from preschool ("Headstart")
on a bus with many of the kids so much older and
bigger and tougher than she was. This was our baby
of the family, our sheltered miniature princess, and
it was not easy to back off and let her face the world
without us for a few hours a day ... Alas, even
princesses grow up.
"Do you think they might be doing that just because
he's new?" I asked her.
She thought for a minute. "No. When I was new,
they didn't make fun of me."
I took a deep breath. "Do you think maybe they
tease him because his skin is black?"
She thought for a minute, clearly puzzled. Then
she wrinkled her nose and said, "You mean brown?"
I nodded and she went on: "Because he's BROWN?
You don't make fun of someone just because of that!"
I told her I hoped she was right. She was learning
lessons none of us should need to learn. Man's
inhumanity to man ... Kid's inhumanity to kids ...
Whatever the reason, people can be so cruel.
(Since we were looking into that subject, and since
Danielle has a Downs' syndrome sister who rode on
the same bus, I asked quietly, "Does anyone on the
bus make fun of Shannon, Danielle?"
I'll never forget the look she gave me. My question
threw her totally off guard. Her brow furrowed, her
nose wrinkled again and she asked, "Why in the
world would they make fun of Shannon?" The very
idea was ludicrous. Her mother could be so
silly sometimes ...
Relief was great ...
But just in case, just in case there really was
a flash of racial prejudice or any other mean-streak
residing in the preschool bus in our little rural
neighborhood, it was necessary to take a bit of
action. First, I telephoned the principal and informed
him that my preschooler had come home upset
because of the way a little boy was treated on the
bus. I told him what she had told me, and he asked
me to thank her for him, for alerting us to a possible
problem, something that needed his attention. He
assured me he would look into it and he appreciated
Danielle's and my concern.
She was happy. We had done something.
Then, for good measure, she and I sang a song
together: a song we both knew very well.
"Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow
Black ('AND BROWN', I threw in) and white,
All are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world."
I don't know how the principal chose to handle
the problem: I don't know what he said to the kids.
But rest assured Danielle kept me posted on Life
on the School Bus, and there was not even one more
negative incident involving the little brown boy.
A princess had seen to that.