National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  June 18, 2004



It was a lazy, rainy Saturday. Since nothing could be done outside, something had to be done inside. We couldn’t just waste the afternoon or could we? Naps or television sounded like good options. Seizing both the moment and momentum, my wife declared, “Let’s clean the house.”

With that I went downstairs to the basement to help clean our children’s playroom. What a mess! Play-Doh on the floor so hard it could pierce a foot if stepped on. Scraps of paper everywhere. Our daughter’s art table was barely visible. Markers, scissors, colored paper and pencils -- all needed to be put away. Frustration was starting to boil to anger.

Surveying the scene I was tempted to throw it all away. The story of Noah came to mind: “When God saw how corrupt the earth had become, he said to Noah: ‘I have decided to put an end to all mortals on earth; the earth is full of lawlessness because of them. So I will destroy them and all life on earth’ ” (Genesis 6:12-13).

This feeling was not to last however. Sitting over a pile of crayons, I began to separate the whole ones from the broken. All the while I was wondering why Cara, our daughter, would keep so many broken crayons. With the broken ones far outweighing the whole ones, it hit me: You can still make art from what is broken. We need little evidence to prove that our lives are far from whole. Broken families, marriages, careers, dreams predominate. All is not lost though. In the midst of brokenness, beauty can emerge.

God surely came to this realization as well through Noah and the flood when he said: “I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall a flood devastate the earth” (Genesis 9:12). His promise was the rainbow.

Talking later that day with my daughter, I asked her why she kept so many broken crayons. “What do you do with all of them?” I asked. “Daddy,” she said, “I take all the broken crayons, and with mommy’s help, melt them down. Then, I get a big crayon, a rainbow crayon.”

Yes, the promise of the rainbow, of beauty, of art, remains.

Mike Daley teaches theology at Xavier High School in Cincinnati.

National Catholic Reporter, June 18, 2004

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