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The first lie I can remember telling dates to my first day of kindergarten. The big classroom in our small-town school (long since razed) enchanted me. With a bank of tall windows along one side and green plants vining on the ledge, it had miniature chairs and desks and easels, just my size. It smelled faintly of finger paint and glue.

I adored my teacher, Mrs. Lauck, and instantly adopted the soft-spoken, slender woman as a third grandmother. She was gentle with us students and had a calm smile. I was eager for her approval. For some reason, I hungered for love, and I believed it had to be earned.

So, when Mrs. Lauck gathered us in a circle and asked us to share a story about the best gift we’d ever received, I told a whopper: “A toy doctor’s kit,” I said. “My mom and dad gave it to me for starting school.”

Totally untrue. Completely made-up. Maybe my first foray into creating fiction?

If I’d ended my fib there, I might never have been found out. But I just had to add: “And they bought kits for all of you, too.” (I’m chuckling at myself. If you’d discovered that word-scrap in the back of the fridge, it wouldn’t have passed the sniff test.)

Even as a kindergartener, I was horrified, once that lie left my mouth. I saw the clock start ticking toward the hour when my fairy tale would turn into a pumpkin. It wasn’t like I had 24 toy doctor’s kits to bring to class the next day!

Now, I didn’t know that Mrs. Lauck and my folks were acquainted. Indeed, she was a “country neighbor,” living within a few miles of our farm. Even if she hadn’t been, she would probably still have called them on the phone to check my story. She would still have alerted them to my tall tale and advised them to tame my loose little tongue before lying became a habit.

My whopper had just slipped out. But, good grief, had it backfired! Instead of prizing me as a student, Mrs. Lauck didn’t trust me. And I was in hot water at home. That might have been the first time I had my mouth washed out with soap.

* * *

All these years later, what I find most intriguing about that lie is its hidden meaning. Think about it: The “best gift I’d ever gotten,” at least in my imagination, was a doctor’s kit: a collection of things I could use to remedy suffering. Yes, a mere toy, but we all have to start somewhere, don’t we?

And consider this: In my fantasy, I considered this “gift” so significant that I wanted Mrs. Lauck and every student in my class to have one, too! I wanted to equip them all to “doctor” the world.

Know what I’m thinking? My big fat lie, in a deep sense, was true.

I’m thinking that “our parents”—all the ancestors and wise souls who have preceded us—have endowed every person in our “class” with gifts essential to the well-being of our families, communities, and planet. They haven’t “given a kit” to just one of us; that would be neither fair nor sufficient. They’ve given a “kit” to us all.

Some supplies in our kits are basic, the equivalents of a stethoscope and thermometer and blood pressure cuff. They include patience, empathy, compassion, creativity… We all carry these things in our bags. They constantly replenish themselves. We never run out.

Other supplies are more specific to the type of “healing” we practice. My kit includes the ability to write literature, to compose music, to speak in public. What gifts are in your kit? Dig deep. Tell me what you discover.

Finally, we have supplies we don’t even realize are there until suddenly we need them. Never doubt this. Need courage? You got it. Need strength? You got it. Need understanding? You got it. If we look closely, we’ve got it all, amongst us, in infinite amounts.

We can always trust The Kit to provide.

You and I are here together in this classroom called life. No matter our age, we’re all kindergarteners—beginners—with endless lessons yet to learn. We’re meant to learn them together, so we can mend the world—together.

My kindergarten whopper was no lie. It was a vision.

Together, we’ve got what it takes.

As any book lover knows, often the best fiction is true.


Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.

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