“Let’s draw,” Ronald said to Jay. “I like drawing.”
“Okay. So do I.”
Ronald got his nice drawing paper and a new box of colored pencils from the hallway closet. He sat at the little table in his room and began to draw a house.
Jay stood and looked at him.
“Can I draw, too?”
“Sure,” Ronald agreed. “Go home and get some paper and colored pencils and come back and draw.”
Jay stared at Ronald again. Meeting the new kid on the block wasn’t going as well as Jay had hoped. He went home, but he didn’t come back.
Ronald’s mother, Bettina, confronted him gently when she realized Jay had gone.
“You sent him home for his own colored pencils and paper?”
“Yeah, and he didn’t come back. Maybe he didn’t have any.”
“You could have easily shared your pencils and paper.”
Ronald looked up from his drawing. He gave his mother the look all children give their parents, the one that wordlessly says, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. How can you be so dumb?”
Bettina ignored the look. “Ronald, in this life you can keep your colored pencils to yourself, or you can have friends.”
Ronald’s face took on a quizzical expression; his mother thought it was preferable to the previous one. She went on with her housework but looked in on Ronald from time to time. He was sitting stock still, mulling the Hobson’s choice he had been given.
Bettina grew tired of the boy’s pondering after a while. “Well? What have you decided?”
Ronald picked up the orange pencil and calmly set to work on the chimney of his house.
“I’d rather have colored pencils.”
He didn’t see the shiver that shook his poor mother.
Forty-six years later, a falling tree claimed Ronald’s life. Four people attended his perfunctory funeral: his widowed mother, her sister, a cousin who attended only because he happened to be in town that week, and his boss at the drafting firm.
Before the coffin was closed, Bettina gave the funeral director a new box of colored pencils. “Please put these in his inside suit pocket. He always carried a box with him.”
A month later, the principal of Ronald’s old elementary school called Bettina. “The children will be drawing today if you’d like to come watch.”
She met the principal at his office and he led her down a short hallway to the kindergarten room. She looked through the window in the door and saw the children paired off. Each child had a piece of paper, and a single box of colored pencils rested between them.
“Is this what you had in mind?” the principal asked.
“It’s exactly what I wanted to see. It’s so important that they learn at an early age to share.”
“I couldn’t agree more. And we’re so pleased you’re sharing your late son’s art supplies with the school. It’s a good gift in these hard budget times. I’m sure he would be pleased, too.”
Bettina could almost hear her late son screaming at this injustice, and she simply smiled at the children taking turns with Ronald’s colored pencils.