I sighed. It wasn't because I didn't like the first day of conducting a special project at school. I did. But oh, how many children were in the class this year! More than I could ever remember. So many children - would I be able to help each one?
A big boy came in, and when I said, "Hello," he said, "Ah-Salaam Aliakim." I didn't know what that meant, but it sounded like hello, only in a different language. There were students there who spoke different languages at home and English at school. Again, I sighed. Would I ever learn about each child?
When I went home that night, I just wanted to have some supper and go to bed. But I couldn't sleep. I knew I needed to take all my sighs to God before I faced another day. The first sentence in a prayer Christ Jesus gave to his students kept repeating itself in my thoughts: "Our Father which art in heaven...."
"Oh, Father," I prayed, "heaven isn't far away; heaven isn't years away. Heaven is here and now, and I live in Your house, the kingdom of heaven." Then I was quiet, listening for God - not to really talk to God like a person, but I was listening for His love. Waiting to feel God give me a big prayer hug. Soon I began to feel at peace, and a word, a single word, stopped my sighs - "OUR."
That's a funny word to think about, I thought. But there it was, "OUR." I almost began to laugh out loud. Now I see, I thought. The prayer isn't "Oh, Father," as I'd said a few minutes earlier, but "Our Father." And every child is a part of this family of God. Every one has the same Father and Mother God.
No more sighs the next day. I came with 30 squares of fabric in my hands. Each child picked one. Some kids argued about which one they wanted. Some wanted the blue only; some wanted the ones with patterns on them - flowers, hearts, even a square with balloons on it. Pretty soon, though, everyone had a square they liked. Then I handed out special pens that could write on fabric, and each child wrote his or her name on the square. Most of the kids even put a little picture by their name. Then they turned the squares in to me and began their regular schoolwork.
That night, I sat down at my sewing machine and stitched all the squares together. I didn't stop to decide which square looked better next to another. I just stitched away until I had a BIG set of squares. The next day, I set up a special corner with the squares on a frame. On top were the squares each child had done, and in the middle was a soft, fuzzy material called batting. The bottom was one piece of fabric a little bit bigger than the top and middle. For the next month, the children took turns learning how to put needle and thread through all three layers, and, bit by bit, they sewed them together.
At the end of the month, I had a special party. I brought in cupcakes, each with a different colored frosting. I brought in juice to drink. The children were so excited. What was the special occasion? "Today we are celebrating our special quilt," and I held up the colorful quilt the children had made. Everyone clapped. The quilt was a jumble of colors and pictures and names. Their names. Their special squares. Somehow every one fit with the others. "This quilt is what I see when I see all of you. When you are together, you form a beautiful quilt." The children smiled, and ate their cupcakes and admired their work.
They could see that one of those squares alone, or even two or three of a kind, would never have been as lovely as the many squares of many colors sewn together.
The children learned to say hello in the languages of different people. The big boy who had said, "Ah-Salaam Aliakim" taught the class that this meant "Go in peace" in Farsi, a language spoken in parts of the Middle East. And he taught them to say, "Wah Aliakim Ah-salaam" back. It meant, "Peace be with you." So many ways to greet each other. And all the time, the quilt, the special jumbly-colored quilt, hung proudly on the wall.
With one Father, even God,
the whole family of man
would be brethren;...
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)