A week ago, I found myself in Barnes & Noble nosing around in the children's fiction department. In order to begin working on the scripts for my education program, I wanted to get a feel for a 6th grader's vocabulary, sentence structure, and plot complexity. I was wandering around the store feeling underwhelmed. Where were all of the good children's books?
And then just as I was leaving a small set of books caught my eye. Published by Scholastic, Blue Balliett wrote a set of kids mystery books that involve several main characters that carry over in the series. I picked up The Wright 3, a book about three 6th grade friends who find themselves in a race to save the Robie House, Frank Lloyd Wright's Chicago masterpiece, from demolition. I found it oddly comforting over this last week because of several key messages it offers in a very forthright fashion - just the way that kids do.
1.) "Don't give up. In darkness, much work can be accomplished." I think about how much darkness was in that stairwell of my old apartment building during the fire. So much raced through my mind as I scrambled down the stairs - from "stop drop and roll" to things I never got a chance to say people whom I care about to "I will get out of this building unharmed". In darkness, we develop a keen sense of sight and insight for things that we cannot see in broad daylight.
2.) "Sometimes when you lose something, you end up getting something else. Only you can't know about the second thing until you've lost the first...losing is sometimes gaining." It's human nature to lament a loss of any kind whether it's our home, our belongings, our jobs, a relationship. What's so often under-appreciated is that losing something makes room for something new, and often better than what we had before, and it gives us a new appreciation for the things and people we do have in our lives. It takes a while to see that trade-off as a good one. In the past I have hung on to a sense of loss for far too long. I am trying to change that.
3.) "It's sometimes hard to tell the line between real and unreal." This world and the energies it contains work in mysterious ways. Magic and things that cannot be explained are constantly at work. Our life is full of coincidences. People appear in our lives, then disappear, then reappear again. An opportunity comes around, we may pass on it, and then it comes around again for a second and third chance. This world always has something to teach us.
4.) "Sometimes little things can appear big, and big things little." This idea is especially powerful for me this week. I used to think I needed so many things. My apartment was filled with things I loved, things I could not imagine living without. In the end very little of it mattered. Actually, none of it really matters too much. My health and the people I love are really the only things that matter to me now.
5.) "What you notice first isn't always what you're looking for." This is my favorite idea from The Wright 3. We're so quick to judge, categorize and title a person, place, or thing. And sometimes the value we connote to an item or a person isn't permanent. Some things and people become more valuable to us with time, and it can be a long, slow process to figure out just what the right value should be. We owe it to ourselves to give things and people a chance to prove their worth. The reality of a situation is not always what it initially presents itself to be.