Saturday, May 13, 2017
“When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” ― Margery Williams, “The Velveteen Rabbit”
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and my wife has been the best mother for our three sons that they could have ever wished for. She was and is always loving and inventive with them. It showed in her teaching, too. Some of you may know this story, but it is worth retelling. Karen has shown her creativity in myriad ways over the years, but my favorite, and the favorite of most of her former kindergartners involves her reading them “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams. It’s the story of a stuffed rabbit that is loved so long and so truly that in the end it becomes a real rabbit. You can get versions read by Meryl Streep and there is a wonderful movie available as well. It’s something I recommend for every parent to read to every child, but maybe not quite like my wife read it to her classes. You see, before Karen would start to read the story to her five-year-olds, she would bring in a rabbit cage with an exact replica of the stuffed Velveteen Rabbit in it. Then, as she would begin to read each section, she would open the cage, take out the stuffed rabbit and let a different child every day hold and love the stuffed rabbit. It took almost two weeks to get through the whole story, so every child had had a turn at holding and loving the little stuffed rabbit. Then, on the last day, when the story tells of the rabbit becoming real, Karen would close the book and send the class out to recess. While they were outside playing, Karen would take the stuffed rabbit out of the cage and replace it with a real one. She wouldn’t say anything about it and just let the kids discover one by one that there was a real rabbit in the cage. One little boy saw it, covered his mouth with his hand, and just started jumping up and down and making strange sounds, others would squeal or scream, but none never failed to notice. One little girl was convinced that her stuffed toys at home had all come to life. The other teachers always complimented Karen on her creativity with this story, and many others have copied it over the years in different schools. I always thought this might have warped their little psyches, but Karen has received so many posts on Facebook from former students saying that it was the highlight of their year and they would never forget it, I guess she knew what she was doing. The wonderful thing is that Christ is always holding and loving us (His "velveteen rabbits") and waiting for us to become the Real disciples that both receive His love and give it to others freely. Look up the hymn, “Freely, Freely” for it says it all. God bless my wife for her love for children and the joy she released in all of them—and she is still doing it here in Africa.