Friday, November 22, 2013

Jonah, Monstro, and Mr. Bunko

 This past Sunday, the pastor of our church spoke from the Old Testament book of Jonah. You, I am sure, are familiar with the story. Or are you? Apparently Jonah was swallowed by a fish. It was Pinocchio and his creator, Geppetto, who were swallowed by a whale. Jonah was vomited onto dry land by the un-named fish, and Pinocchio and Geppetto were sneezed out of Monstro the whale. They then surfed and paddled to safety from the enraged Monstro, who pursued them angrily.

During the sermon, my mind wandered back to elementary school, where we had a student teacher who had a great idea.

Understand that I was in elementary school in the ‘70s. This was the decade of free love, earth day, sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and macram√©. In the midst of this mix of craziness, a college senior had a great idea.

This young man, whom I shall call Mr. Bunko, was enthused about saving the earth, teaching the youth of the world to read and write, and passing on a deep appreciation and commitment to saving the earth from being destroyed by people.

How did he accomplish these lofty goals with only a few days in the class room?

He had his students each write a letter to the emperor of Japan, asking, pleading, reasoning with him to stop killing whales. I diligently wrote, after thinking about it for quite some time (I was an excellent procrastinator even as a young boy).

I knew that whale hunting was a big business in Japan and employed many people. I reasoned that if Japan stopped hunting whales, many people would not have a job and that would be bad. Therefore, in a stroke of genius, I offered the emperor of Japan my allowance.

Mr. Bunko was unimpressed. He called me to his desk, which wasn’t really his desk; he simply was squatting in my regular teacher’s territory. I do not remember his exact words, but he was not happy with my offering the emperor of Japan my allowance. He seemed to think that this was a silly, trifling thing that would not, could not, sway the supreme ruler of
Japan to stop a huge industry with a long and important history to his country. And he demanded a re-write.

I don’t think I ever did that re-write.

He was right about my letter. Yet, I was crushed. From that day I hated writing, especially letters. Now, today I write a letter to Mr. Bunko.

Dear Mr. Bunko,

Many years have passed since I wrote that letter to the emperor of Japan, the letter in which I offered him my allowance if he ended the practice of hunting whales. I was saddened by your reaction to my writing. I am still sad to this day. I am not sad because of your words to me; I am sad that you did not recognize the absolute natural genius sarcasm I wrote in that letter.

Honestly, did you think that 23 letters written by elementary school students from New York would change his mind regarding this large and historic industry. Students, not from the great city of New York, but in a medium-sized city in a part of the state that many people forget is even there. Students who were not even residents of that city, but lived in a nondescript suburb of that medium-sized city. I am sure that those letters produced as much change in the emperor’s attitude as my promise of turning over my measly allowance would have.

Today I realize the sarcasm that naturally flowed into that letter, and I am proud.

Therefore, as an adult, a parent, a writer, and a lover of education, I demand you re-write your lesson plan. I expect the revisions on my desk by the end of the day.


  1. I hope the Mr. Bunko's out there read this, Rob. Even though there are so many good teacher out there, there are still a few too many who crush spirits. Having enjoyed your blog posts, I'm glad that your writing spirit returned :)

  2. It is time to stop being sad. Like Diane, I'm pleased that you have continued to write. But have faith, even the actions of one small boy can change the world!