The Velveteen Rabbit

A stuffed animal is sitting on the bed.

⌘ In The Velveteen Rabbit (1922 Children’s book by Margery Williams), the rabbit asks if becoming real hurts and the Skin Horse tells him that yes, sometimes it does, sometimes your eyes get rubbed off in the process and you’ll lose some of your shine, but that’s how you know you’re real.  We all know that life sometimes loses its shine and that we have to work to get that shine back.  The Skin Horse is talking about love, but I believe it applies to all areas of our lives.  

The story involves a stuffed rabbit sewn from velveteen that is a Christmas present to a small boy.  The boy plays with his other presents, which are more modern, and snubs the old-fashioned velveteen rabbit.  The wisest and oldest toy in the nursery, the Skin Horse, which was owned by the boy’s uncle, tells the rabbit about toys magically becoming real because of love from children.  The rabbit is in awe of this idea, but his chances of achieving this wish are slight.  One night, the boy’s nanny gives the rabbit to the boy to sleep with in place of a lost toy, and the rabbit becomes the boy’s favorite toy, enjoying picnics with him in the spring.  The boy regards the rabbit as real.  Time passes and the rabbit becomes shabbier, but happy.  It meets some real rabbits in the summer, and they learn that the velveteen rabbit cannot hop as they do, and they say that he is not a real rabbit.  One day, the boy comes down with scarlet fever, and the rabbit sits with him as he recovers.  The doctor orders that the boy should be taken to the seaside and that his room should be disinfected, and all his books and toys burned, including the velveteen rabbit.  They bundle the rabbit into a sack and left it out in the garden overnight, where he reflects sadly on his life with his boy.  The toy rabbit cries, but as actual tears drop onto the ground, a marvelous flower appears.  A fairy steps out of the flower and comforts the velveteen rabbit, introducing herself as the Nursery Magic Fairy.  She says that because he has become real to the boy who truly loves him, she will take him away with her and make him real to everyone.  The fairy takes the rabbit to the forest, where she meets the other rabbits and gives the velveteen rabbit a kiss.  The velveteen rabbit changes into a real rabbit and joins the other rabbits in the forest. The next spring, the rabbit returns to look at the boy, and the boy sees a resemblance to his old velveteen rabbit.

As we all know, when we become adults responsible for ourselves and for others, life does become real and, at times, hurts.  As the Skin Horse said, “you lose some of your shine.† I believe one of our goals has to be putting the shine back into our lives and conveying that invigorating attitude to others in order to encourage them to do the same.

I never had stuffed toys as a kid so I don’t have fond memories of them, but I did dream about being a grownup and what I would do with my life when I became one.  I did not achieve many of the things I dreamed about, but I became the man I wanted to be.  When all is said and done, that was most important. 

“One of the most adventurous things left us is to go to bed.  For no one can lay a hand on our dreams.†— E. V. Lucas            

⌘  If you walked into a restaurant or diner back in the 50s and 60s and ordered a cup of coffee, you would hear the server yell out such phrases as “a cup of Joe 50-50†(half coffee, half milk) or “Java blonde with sand†(coffee with cream & sugar).  If you wanted decaf with non-fat milk, then it was “why bother†😊.  You can still hear the waiting staff in smaller restaurants use special phrases for particular orders, but not so much in larger restaurants.  They just write it down and stick it on a revolving stand for the cook to grab and fill.  It has always amazed me how coordinated the routine is in a restaurant.  Some servers are kind and others are just trying to get in their shift and go home.  I’m guessing that when your pay is low and you depend on the generosity of others to meet your financial obligations, it makes for a very stressful day of work.  I always try to tip at least 20% and sometimes more if the service is good (which often depends on how well they respond to my banter).  I realize that dealing with the public all day long could be an exasperating experience since all their customers aren’t as pleasant as my wife and I are 😊, so I try to be generous.  My tips weren’t always so kind when I was a young man, and I regret that.  In my defense, money was in short supply and I had a young family of four to provide for.  I believe the motivation for me being more liberal with my tips now is that I failed to do so way back then.  Will it make up for my failures?  I doubt it, but it makes me feel better now.  As Lucius Seneca said, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.†

⌘   A few weeks ago I hurt the thumb on my right hand, and it hurt the entire day.  As the day progressed, I tried to ignore the pain, but it kept inserting itself into my activities.  The nail also turned black.  I have had many nails turn black, mainly toenails because of running, and they eventually come off with a little prodding, but they were never painful.  As I turned in for the night, the pain was still there and wouldn’t give me any relief, but when I awoke the next morning, it had disappeared.  All that remained was the dark circle underneath the nail.  What a relief! 😊

I have friends who are in pain 24/7 and I’m at a loss to explain how they deal with it.  I know that we all have varying tolerances for pain, but I don’t know how you deal with it when it is always there.  One of my friends tells me that her constant pain is an 8 on a scale of 10.  I would rate my thumb pain as a 5 and my fretting over it seems so silly when compared to hers.  I have family and friends who have suffered so much and died from cancer.  I see people on the news who are suffering from COVID, and I wonder how I would deal with it.  I have always thought of myself as being able to accept adversity, but I’m not so sure now.       

We all hope that during our lives we are blessed by not having a permanent illness or injury.  Many do, but many do not, and some of those who don’t are our friends and relatives.  Some of our misfortunes are because of our lifestyles (smoking, drinking, overeating, and so on), some because of our genes, and some are just fate.  In my religious beliefs (Methodist), God never promises us he will spare us from sickness/injury, but he promises to be with us as we endure it.  That is my hope if tragedy strikes me. 

Albert Camus said, “The climax of every tragedy lies in the deafness of its heroes.â€

⌘   Some say the most powerful word in the English language is “help†(“ayuda†in Spanish) and I believe that to be true.  Most of us are probably reluctant to ask for help, wanting to be independent and handle things ourselves.  Some use the word often, which diminishes its value.  Personally, I refrain from asking unless it’s absolutely necessary.  I was never close to the word as a youngster because in my world then I was always given an order.  That may explain my reluctance to ask for help, but that has not prevented me from helping others, which has become more of a priority as I have gotten older.  I believe the penchant for helping others came to me in my 50s as an idea or goal I wanted to accomplish.  We all know that ideas are like children and you don’t want them to go into the world in rags.  I wanted my idea of helping others to be significant, so for the last 30 years I have made it a priority in my life to help not only family and friends, but strangers as well.  The rewards are many, as the warm feeling that emanates is repayment in full. 

An old Hindu Proverb says, “Help your brother’s boat across, and your own will reach the shore.† That’s a nail I can hang my hat on. 😊