As a teacher at the elementary level, I had a wonderful time reading children’s books. I never really liked twaddle, especially when choosing books for children, so I made an effort to choose books of literature. In searching for good literature, I ran across The Velveteen Rabbit and was a bit embarrassed I’d never heard of it before. It is a classic, after all. (I must have read lots of twaddle as a child. I hadn’t even heard of The Chronicles of Narnia until I was an adult.)
So here…in case your literary choices were as lacking as mine, please enjoy this excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams:
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.
But the Skin Horse only smiled.
It’s been twenty years since I first read that story, but the lesson it teaches is one that has stuck with me since I was a young third grade teacher reading aloud to the class. Sometimes I think the lessons taught in children’s literature are lost on the children. But I’m so glad this one made an impression on me. I remember deciding the pain I’d felt at that time was worth it. And now, having had many more years of becoming real, I’m very thankful I’ve not been carefully kept.
The pain from choosing not to shield one’s self from others, can hurt quite a lot. But it’s worth it in the end.
Some scars are more visible, but all of them have taught me…
Authenticity is best.
Loving and being loved…wow…