BLADENBORO — Many will recall the famous plea of Rodney King in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed the verdict in his court case: “Can’t we all just get along?” A Bladenboro woman wonders the same thing, and wants to do something about it.
Sara Galloway Lennon, EdD, grew up on a farm in Lake Waccamaw. The child of tobacco farmers, Lennon spent much of her childhood working in tobacco barns listening to stories recounted by her mother and grandmother as they labored. All the while, she attended a school with a diverse population, including many Native American children from the Buckhead community of Columbus County.
Lennon went on to obtain her doctorate in education, studying the effects of poverty on students, and is now considered an expert in the field. She began work as a school guidance counselor in Robeson County, where she continued to interact regularly with the Native American community and noticed a disturbing trend.
“They seem to have trouble with identity,” she said. “What they see on TV is often not positive, and then we take them to museums and they see Native American pottery, but that doesn’t resonate with them either. They don’t have a sense of identity.”
Using Native American folklore and culture, the stories and proverbs told by her mother and grandmother in the tobacco barn, and her job as a guidance counselor, Lennon began forming an idea for addressing her concerns.
“I had a student that I was talking to about his behavior, and I came up with some guidance lessons for him. All the children seemed to enjoy them, so I talked to a local author about getting a book published,” said Lennon.
What started out as those guidance lessons became a book for children, A Class of Colors. In it, a bright yellow sun becomes bored with his daily view of the green and blue Earth and strikes a deal with his old friend, the wind, to bring more colors for him to see. The wind warns the sun that every color’s personality and behavior is different and can be difficult to deal with. Together, the sun and water team up in order to shape and train the behaviors of the colors. They begin to play off of the strengths and weaknesses of each color to make a perfect compliment, thus creating a beautiful rainbow.
Geared toward children around 8 years of age, the book uses a Native American folktale to teach a moral lesson, that working together, no matter what our differences are, can effect a beautiful change.
“I’m trying to teach one character lesson and use one adage that sticks with the children,” explained Lennon. “In this book, it’s being able to get along with others, looking at positive attributes, and blending them together as a whole.”
She added, “I feel like we’ve become such a self-centered society, and we forget to work together as a team.”
Lennon sees the book as a mission, and wants to impart biblical ideals in a way that can be utilized in the public school setting.
In addition to teaching character lessons, Lennon also wants to foster a love for, as she sees it, a lost art form.
“Children are so exposed to Disney and games, and they are losing so many stories,” lamented Lennon. “The art of storytelling fuels the imagination, and children are losing that.”
Lennon is already working on another book that will focus on the adage “birds of a feather flock together,” and will contain a lesson about one of two principles.
“Love one another, and treat others like you want to be treated. Every other lesson revolves around those two things,” said Lennon.
A Class of Colors can be purchased at bookstores everywhere or online at Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, or Barnes and Noble.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.