Right now I am teaching a seven-day creative writing program at a public elementary school in Buffalo, New York. On the second day I had the students write collaborative stories: One child wrote a fictional story's beginning, another wrote the middle, and a third penned the conclusion. Most of them struggled with this. Exchanging papers was an ordeal, and many were not happy with the stories they were expected to add onto. Girls did not want to write the plot for a story about football; others thought the people with whom they were supposed to trade papers were icky. But some rose to the occasion and collaborated to produce solid stories.

One in particular caught my eye. It was about someone serving in Iraq. Here's what the students wrote:

Once there was a man named John. He was going to Iraq. He was going to fight for our lives. But then he got a little scared because he was thinking of what might happen to him. But then he was feeling sad because he missed his family. Then he went to Iraq, and when he got there, he felt really better. So he got a popsicle, then he said, “I am going to write a letter to my parents.” He got another popsicle, then he went back to war. This time he was not scared, so he got all the stuff he needed. He got the best gun he could. He wanted to see his parents.

Say what you will about the popsicles and the fact that John ceases to be scared when he gets to Iraq, there is some real awareness here about the dangers of war.

In The Fray is a nonprofit staffed by volunteers. If you liked this piece, could you please donate $10?