A kindergartner might take a glacier’s age to put on a single tennis shoe while mom impatiently rattles the car keys in the morning, but put the same kindergartner in a circle with 24 other 5-year-olds and a single tub of crayons, and they move too fast to clock. Like iron filings to a magnet, they seem to leap instantaneously to the target, 25 hands converging on the coveted colors. Or perhaps just 24–usually a calm child or two waits at the others’ shoulders rather than competing in the first-wave frenzy. Stevie was one of those, waited the extra moment for Crayola-filled-fists to withdraw before reaching in himself.
Stevie seemed serene, unperturbed by the regular Friday feeding-frenzy at the crayon-trough, not challenging his classmates for better position, not showing any sign of sulkiness at the inevitable delay in reaching the crayons himself. In fact, he didn’t say much at all, simply went about his business, seemingly avoiding the normal classmate collision-courses inevitable among most kindergartners.
Intending to fill a classroom corkboard with student work, Stevie’s teacher started sorting through several weeks’ worth of collected drawings–stick-figure families, houses under bright yellow suns and strips of blue sky, pets, cars, flowers… And a drawing by Stevie of a black dog next to a black swingset. Another Stevie-piece of a black sailboat on black water with black fish. A family portrait–by blonde Stevie–of four black figures in front of a black house.
With a troubling new perspective on Stevie’s quiet demeanor, his teacher convened a school team of specialists. Social Services descended on Stevie’s home, and the investigation took off. Seven weeks into the psychological inquiry, with half a dozen professionals on the case, a “non-expert” grownup thought to ask Stevie why he always drew in black. His unconcerned answer? “It’s the crayon that’s always left.”
All that fuss, and such a simple answer, really.
Left to its own devices, my mind will overcomplicate anything. Almost a year ago I approached my A.A. Fourth Step (a “fearless and thorough moral inventory” of myself) in a state of mind I’ll describe as anything but fearless. I have been guilty of engaging in the “A.A. Waltz” (three Steps and OutTheDoor!) but this time I hit Bottom… or rather, my bottom hit me and handed me my ass–and I knew I couldn’t avoid that Fourth Step. Two options only: I could uncover and address my own past–flaws, faults, and follies–or I could go back to the insanity of the drink.
I was ready to call in a whole SWAT team to deal with the black-crayon drawing that is the wreckage of my past; surely nothing less than a 20-member Hazmat team could manage the task!
But here’s the amazing alchemy of the Fourth Step: it converts my own past and fears from a threatening unquantified tangle into a known–and therefore, manageable–quantity. I have been disastrously human, but it turns out I don’t need a SWAT team or HazMat Response to deal with the situation that is ME–I simply need God, a Sponsor, and a writing utensil. Black will do.