Velveteen Rabbit

A stuffed animal that is sitting on top of a 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, 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 realâ€.  We all know that life sometimes loses its shine and that we have to work to get it back.  The skin horse is talking about love, but I believe it applies to all areas of our life.  

A synopsis of the book involves a stuffed rabbit sewn from velveteen that is a Christmas present to a small boy. The boy plays with his presents and forgets the velveteen rabbit for a time. The other presents are modern and so he 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, however 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. The rabbit becomes the boy’s favorite toy, enjoying picnics with him in the spring, and 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 — all his books and toys burned, including the velveteen rabbit. The rabbit is bundled into a sack and left out in the garden overnight, where he reflects sadly on his life with his boy. The toy rabbit cries as real tears drops onto the ground, and 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 “turn him into 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 upon becoming adults, responsible for ourselves and others, life becomes truly real and does, at times, hurt.  As the Skin Horse said, “you lose some of your shineâ€.  I believe one of our goals has to be putting the shine back into our life and conveying that invigorating attitude to other, thus, encouraging them to include it into theirs also.

I never had stuffed toys as a kid so I don’t have fond memories of them, but I did dream about being a grown-up 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 is what 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 waitress 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 small eating places use special phrases for particular orders, but not so much in larger venues.  Mostly, 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 stress filled day.  I always try to tip at least 20% and sometimes more if the service was good (that 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.  Unfortunately, as a young man, my tips weren’t always as kind 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 in my tips now has to be 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.  I noticed that the nail started turning black, but the pain persisted.  I have had many nails turn black, mainly toenails (from running), and they eventually come off with a little prodding.  They were never painful.  As I turned in for the night, the pain was still there, not willing to give me any relief.  When I awoke the next morning, it was gone.  All that remained was the dark circle underneath the nail.  What a relief! 😊

I have friends that are in pain 24/7 and I’m at a loss with how they deal with it.  I am aware that we all have varying tolerances for pain, but I don’t know how you deal with it if 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.  My fretting over the pain I endured seems so silly when compared to hers.  I have family & friends that have suffered so much, and died, from cancer.  I see people on the news that 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.  I’m not so sure now.       

We all hope that during our life, we are blessed by not having a permanent illness, or injury.   Many do, but a lot do not, and some of those that don’t are our friends and relatives.  Some of our misfortunes are because of our lifestyle (smoking, drinking, overeating), some to our genes, and some is just fate.  In my religious beliefs (Methodist), God never promises us that he will spare us from sickness/injury, but he does promise 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€

⌘   It has been said the most powerful word in the English language is “Help†(ayuda in Spanish).  I believe that is true.  Most of us are probably reluctant to ask for help, wanting to be independent and handle things ourselves. Some use the word a lot, diminishing 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 instead of using “helpâ€, I was always given an order.  That may explain my reluctance to ask for help.  However, not being personally close to it has not prevented me from helping others and as I’ve gotten older it has become more of a priority.  I believe the penchant for helping others came to me in my 50s as an idea, something I decided I wanted to do.  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 and meaningful.  And so, for the last 30 years I have made it a priority in my life to help, not only family and friends, but strangers.  The rewards are many, as the warm feeling that emanates are 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 😊.