A Bolt of Color

This year, a high point of the Friends General Conference Gathering for me was, like so much that happens in this special week, serendipitous. As the evening coordinator for the three- and four-year-olds, I arrived a day early for the Junior Gathering staff workshops and to set up our space for the week. Looking at our assigned room I figured we would need a miracle to turn this tiny, divided lounge into a place that preschoolers would run to with delight. The first part of the miracle happened when the morning coordinator, Sunny Mitchell, just happened to bring with her colorful banners made by students at Newtown (Pa.) Friends School, where she teaches art. They not only brightened the walls but suggested creativity, fun, and action. The next part of the miracle occurred at lunch on the first Saturday when one of the local Friends making arrangements mentioned that she had in her garage a huge bolt of cloth that she wanted to get rid of. "I’ll take it," I said, sight unseen, figuring that even if it were heavy and ugly, we could drape it over chairs or cardboard boxes to make tents or spaces to crawl through.

The cloth arrived midweek, just when we could really use a new diversion. It turned out to be silky light and an eye-catching pattern of bright blue, yellow, and red, at least two yards wide and so long that we never did find its end. With great glee, the children and an adult volunteer started unrolling it on the sidewalk in front of our room. Soon they were jumping and running along it and hiding in it. Figuring it would be safer on grass, we moved it—an exuberant cooperative project—to the soft grass behind our room, where, as if on cue, the kids sat on it, pulling the sides up as if they were in a long boat. This prompted the singing of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore." Then, by holding the cloth from under-neath and walking together, again with amazing, unprompted cooperation, we paraded as a long dragon. Finally we cut a piece of the cloth into "super capes" for each child to take home to remember a spirited evening.

The unexpected, colorful fun must have appealed to adult passersby as well—for the next night we had more volunteer helpers than we could use and were able to share them with other age groups where they were greatly appreciated.