“The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship … God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding” (Ps. 19:1, 4b–5a nlt).
I’ve been thinking about rainbows lately: rainbow trout, the rainbow-colored Swiss chard that grew in my garden this summer, and the little winter birds that display the various colours of the rainbow as they collectively scrape together the last of the seeds at the feeder. Poetically speaking:
If I could catch a rainbow, I’d wrap it in a special box.
If I could share a rainbow, I’d give a piece to anyone hurting.
If I could chase a rainbow across the world,
I’d try to make it land in Haiti.
I know the promise of rainbows
even though I can’t catch them or hold them
God throws them across the skies when we need them—
And I stare in wonder and awe at the incredible beauty of them.
Rainbows are signs of God’s promise to us. Sometimes, the world looks pretty grim. One just needs to listen to the news, open the newspaper, or go online to realize how much pain and brokenness surrounds us. Hurting families, sickness, natural disasters, political unrest, and alienation are all part of our reality. Is this new? Certainly not. What about the mess the world was in when Noah huddled in the ark with his family and the whole menagerie of smelly, noisy animals for forty rainy days and nights? I’m sure he wasn’t thinking about rainbows, but rather about how to get out of that predicament alive.
How do we reach God’s rainbows, and how do we share these “rainbows” with our children at school? How can we make our classroom a community that embraces the diversity reflected in our students, including varieties of familial experience: blended families, single-parent families, families of differing racial and ethnic backgrounds, and those who have experienced grief and loss? God gave Noah a promise when he felt discouraged, and he gives it to us: “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Gen. 9:16). God is a covenant God, and he cares for all his children!
In reflecting on the topic of diversity in our schools, my thoughts turn to the diversity in our home lives. When I was in elementary school, I had a best friend. We studied together, played together, walked together, and shared our joys and sorrows together. We went to each other’s houses every Sunday after church, and stayed there until the evening church service. We attended the same church as most of the students in our class, shared the same catechism classes, and lived similar lifestyles in many ways. One difference between us was that my friend had ice cream for dessert on Sunday. We only had ice cream once a year—on my sister’s birthday, because it was in the summer. But every Sunday, my friend’s father carefully cut the ice cream straight as an arrow, so that we’d each receive an equal slice. That ice cream melted on my tongue—it was so good that I can still taste it. But it wasn’t the ice cream that made my experience richer; it was the relationship with my friend.
Friendship is like a rainbow; it grows and stretches from one person to the next. In reaching for these rainbows, friends grow and embrace each other. In our classrooms, for example, a child from a blended family may have rich experiences to share with his or her classmates. As teachers we need to be sensitive to the diversity of experience represented in our classroom population. If Shelly is not ready to share with the class, she doesn’t need to; but if she is ready, in sharing her story she provides an important relational, spiritual, and educational opportunity for her peers. We need to listen to our children and open our eyes to their worlds. We need to walk in the child’s shoes.
Many schools, churches, and other organizations offer a therapeutic program called “Rainbows.” This program is sponsored by an international, not-for-profit organization that “fosters emotional healing among children grieving a loss from a life-altering crisis.” Our school has offered this program for eighteen years, and I have witnessed the encouragement some children receive from it. It gives them a safe haven in which to express their feelings, and often students who might not know each other bond and connect in a beautiful way. The children in this program understand each other—they know they are not alone. New friendships blossom from these sessions. All discussions are kept confidential, thus allowing the children a safe place in which to talk about their lives. Many parents have expressed their sincere appreciation for the program, feeling that their child benefited positively from the group interaction. One graduate commented: “When my parents died, I had no one to talk to. When you started Rainbows, I was finally able to share my feelings, and I was able to breathe.” What a beautiful name for the program—“Rainbows”—God’s love wrapped around each child, dusting off the hurts and pains.
In his preface to the book, Rainbows for the Fallen World (Toronto: Tuppence Press, 1980), Calvin Seerveld writes: “The answer for Bible-believing Christians is to remember the rainbows God made for the fallen world … Paintings and novels and music are somewhat like rainbows. God did not have to make rainbows. He could have just said it in black on white, “I will keep covenant with the earth” (8). God intentionally chose to use the colorful, beauteous rainbow to remind us of his promise. Seerveld’s words compel me to action. Let’s celebrate diversity and ethnicity in our schools; let’s throw rainbows at each other across the staff room and in the hallways; let’s teach rainbows through our math and literature and art.
Perhaps it is not the students who need this lesson as much as it is we adult teachers who need a reminder of God’s rainbow promise. I walked into the kindergarten class on a recent rainy recess. Teachers are not fans of indoor recesses, but many students love to paint and dress up and play games. There in front of me stood four children, all painting rainbows.
To find out more information about Rainbows visit: http//www.rainbows.ca. This site also gives a list of recommended books and other resources available.