The Little Liar

Miss Jess was already her enemy, so perhaps she should have known better. The fact is, she did write a few lies into her story, but she would never admit that to the second grade teacher who despised her.

Her assignment had been to write about her recent Thanksgiving vacation. It was that simple. She could have stopped with the turkey, the cranberry sauce and the apple and pumpkin pies. She could have said she went to her grandmother’s house for the weekend and all her cousins were there. That was all true, but truth alone did not inspire her. She threw herself into the assignment with gusto.

Her grandmother’s house, an old farm house indeed, needed a farm to make it interesting. So she gave it fields of corn and beans. The old dilapidated barn was real, but she thought it would be better bright red, so she gave it a brilliant coat of paint. A nice red barn like that needed some animals to house. So she invented sheep and cows and goats and horses and a big pink squealing pig that needed to be fed by her and her cousins, one of whom had to fall into the pig pen for dramatic effect. She wrote in a tractor and a plow and parked them next to the barn borrowing those with no one’s permission from the real Corson farm down the road.

She handed in her story and waited for the accolades that were sure to follow.

Miss Jess peered at her over her giant coffee mug. She wiped her nasty wet lips with the back of her hand and began the interrogation.

“So you spent Thanksgiving with your grandparents?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Your grandparents on Route 9 in Seaville?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“You, Missy, are a liar!”

She noticed that Miss Jess had a face redder than the barn she had imagined into her story. She decided it would be best not to say anything more.

“Shame on you! Your grandparents do not have a farm. They do not have animals. They sell vegetables in a wooden stand outside their old house. I HAVE BEEN THERE!”

Miss Mess roared that last line so loud it probably scared all the animals on the farm. They were probably running for the barn right now so they could hide. The Little Liar stifled a giggle as she imagined her animals cowering in their stables.

The teacher was standing now, moving toward the Little Liar’s desk. To the delight of sundry class bullies the old ogre ripped to pieces the embellished story and tossed it at the little criminal who was now cringing at her desk, afraid she was about to be hit. She was sorry. She would not lie again.

Made to stay after school for detention that day the Little Liar wrote her assigned penance 500 times: “I will not tell a lie.” “I will not tell a lie….”

But – some offenders cannot be rehabilitated, no matter how humiliating the public excoriation, and how much pain her disgraced writing fingers suffered from all those remorseful scribbles. The Little Liar simply could not be saved.

Miss Jess left the school the next year. Rumors circulated that she gave up teaching to become a prison guard.

The Little Liar became a poet and a story weaver whose relationship to meticulous truth-telling remained tenuous for at least one hundred and eighty more years.

Inspired by the Young

Young people are rising up in this country!  Today my students were full of energy, imagining a better world, one with respect and fairness as core values. Emboldened by the example of high school children organizing in Florida after last week’s mass shooting, one young man asked, “But where are we going, what kind of world can we build, what comes next?”  He said he feels like “we are driving through a hail storm and we can’t see where we are going.”  All semester this young man has expressed his concern that too often we speak of ‘equality’ when what we need is the maturity to think about ‘equity’ – real fairness, not just sameness.

A young woman in the class made a diagram to illustrate how voting might be conducted and tallied to avoid hacking in the future, and brought it to me after class.  Earlier, during class, she said “People have been divided into small groups and each group has been encouraged to believe that they have no power. But now people are learning that they have power when they stand together.”  Until recently this young woman never spoke a word in class. Now she speaks with authority, and what she has to say energizes those who choose to listen to her.

Another young woman said, “At first when I learned what European Americans did to indigenous people I wondered why they didn’t fight back more viciously and do the same thing back to the people who were torturing and killing them and taking their land.  But now I see that by keeping to their traditional values, Native Americans show us that a better world is possible.  We could learn to live together and solve our problems if first we adopt the values of respect, humility, courage, generosity and compassion.”

Today young people are laying their bodies down for social justice in Washington D.C., and in other cities around the country they are speaking out, angry and determined.  They say they have had enough.  They want change.  They are calling out our national leaders, identifying the betrayals, the lies and the policies that are undermining all that is good in this world.  I stand with them, inspired and hopeful.

We have to stop accusing our politicians of ‘acting like children’.  If only that were so; if only we could be led through this hail storm by people who seek a road that leads to social justice and equity for all, as these courageous children do.