Sister Anne's Hands was published in 2000, written by Marybeth Lorbiecki and illustrated by K. Wendy Popp. Here's the synopsis of this very important children's book found inside the dust cover:
In small-town America in the early 60's, Sister Anne comes to teach at Anna's school. "Her skin was darker than any person's I'd ever known," says Anna, and her hand "was puppy brown with white lacy moons for nails."
From the first day of second grade, Sister Anne lights up the classroom, "I'd never had so much fun at school!" Anna observes after a day of counting buttons and teeth, sharing jokes and stories. Then someone sails a paper airplane past Sister's head, with an ugly message written on the wings. How Sister deals with the incident and the profound impact she has on her students - especially Anna - is at the heart of this moving, timeless tale.
After the sad and hurtful incident the rest of the school day is spent in silence. The next morning when the students come into class they see the photographs Sister Anne has taped to the board of black people having been beaten and lynched, bleeding and forced to use black's only toilets. One sign says, "Go back to Africa." She tells the children, "These are the colors of hatred. Do you know how they feel?"
Then the nun speaks the most important lines: "One thing you're going to learn is that some folks have their hearts wide open, and others are tight as a fist. The tighter they are the more dangerous. For me, I'd rather open my door enough to let everyone in than risk slamming it shut on God's big toe."
There's an awful lot of hate going round these days. A news commentator ticked off some of it the other night: Hate for blacks, Latinos, Mexicans, Muslims, women, gays, Jews...
I've heard it said that our country's original sin is racism. I understand, but I'd be inclined to say it even more simply: our original sin is hatred.
Someone asked if I think there's more hate today than years ago. I'm not sure if that matters. Suffice to say, it's bad. Joshua Dubois, the minister who is a spiritual guide to the president said on TV tonight: "There are lots of good people in this country who don't hate, but they are also the quietest people in the country. They say nothing to the people who do hate."