wizards and dwarfs was the game to play.
left in charge of about eighty children seven to ten
years old, while their parents were off doing
parenty things, I mustered my troops in the church
social hall and explained the game. It's a
large-scale version of Rock, Paper, and Scissors,
and involves some intellectual decision
making. But the real purpose of the game is to
make a lot of noise and run around chasing people
until nobody knows which side you are on or who won.
a roomful of wired-up gradeschoolers into two teams,
explaining the rudiments of the game, achieving
consensus on group identity--all this is no mean
accomplishment, but we did it with a right good will
and were ready to go.
excitement of the chase had reached a critical
mass. I yelled out: "You have to
decide now which you are--a GIANT, a WIZARD,
or a DWARF!"
the groups huddled in frenzied, whispered
consultation, a tug came at my pants leg. A
small child stands there looking up, and asks in a
small, concerned voice, "Where do the Mermaids
do the Mermaids stand?
long pause. A very long pause.
"Where do the Mermaids stand?" says I.
You see, I am a Mermaid."
are no such thing as Mermaids."
yes, I am one!"
did not relate to being a Giant, a Wizard, or a
Dwarf. She knew her category.
Mermaid. And was not about to leave the game
and go over and stand against the wall where a loser
would stand. She intended to participate,
wherever Mermaids fit into the scheme of
things. Without giving up dignity or
identity. She took it for granted that there
was a place for Mermaids and that I would know just
where DO the Mermaids stand? All the
"Mermaids"--all those who are different,
who do not fit the norm and who do not accept the
available boxes and pigeonholes?
that question and you can build a school, a nation,
or a world on it.
was my answer at the moment? Every once in a
while I say the right thing. "The Mermaid
stands right here by the King of the Sea!" says
I. (Yes, right here by the King's Fool, I
thought to myself.)
we stood there hand in hand, reviewing the troops of
Wizards and Giants and Dwarfs as they roiled by in
is not true, by the way, that Mermaids do not
exist. I know at least one personally. I
have held her hand.
Robert L. Fulghum
Fulghum is a writer, philosopher, and public
speaker, but he has also
worked as a cowboy,
a folksinger, an IBM
artist, a parish minister,
bartender, a teacher
of drawing and
and a father.