be real together

IMG_Co-Exist-RTIn honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’m re-releasing this post from  one of my all-time favorite teaching moments; enjoy…  :)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since today is a national holiday, I don’t know what to expect from my after-school art class.  When I walk into the room, I’m surprised at the number of kids who swarm me singing, “We want art!  We want art!”

Always wanting to bring real life lessons to art I ask, “So, you guys didn’t have school today, huh?  Why is that?”

“Martin Luther King Day!” they cheer in unison.

“Ah, and who is Martin Luther King?” I ask.

They become silent, looking at each other and around the room for the answer.  Finally, one little girl speaks up, “I think he was a guy who’s skin was some kind of different color!”  Everyone nods in agreement.

“I see,” I nod, also.  “And what kind of color was his skin?”  Long pause.  “Like, was it purple?”  Raucous laughter.  They think I’m silly. 

“No, his skin wasn’t purple!” calls out an eight-year-old boy.  “It was kind of brownish, I think.  And he broke the law so they killed him.”

IMG_4930-RT“Oh, I see.  Do you mean he ‘broke’ the law or he helped to ‘change’ the law?” I press for clarification.

“He helped change the law so that brownish people and… um… pinkish people… could eat in restaurants together, and stuff like that.”

“That’s right,” I smile.  Then, I ask, “Do you know what my T-shirt says?”


“It says ‘co-exist’ — what does that mean?”  After a pause I help them through the process.  “What does ‘exist’ mean?”il_fullxfull.262126332

“Something that’s actually real?” offers a little Hispanic girl. 

“Yes!  And what does co- mean?  Like co-operate?”

“To work together?”

“That’s right!  So, what does it mean when we put them together?  Co-exist?”

“To be real together?” blurts out the little Hispanic girl.

IMG_4929-RT“That’s right!”  My life feels worth living as I participate in magic moments like this.

We discuss the symbolism on my T-shirt such as the peace sign, the Star of David, the Yin and Yang and the Christian cross.  I tell them I want each of them to come up with a word that is important to them and illustrate it with symbols.  As I watch, their creations make my heart sing.

“Oh, really?” says my eight-year-old cynic, raising one eyebrow.  “And, what does that sound like?”


Why, it sounds kind of like this:


Yeah, they thought that was kind of sappy, too!  What does co-existing mean to you?  What makes your heart sing and what does it sound like?  Thank you for sharing!