Last night, my son pulled out a new book for us to read before his bedtime: The Velveteen Rabbit. We’ve actually had this book for a couple of years, but never read it together before. It was a gift to my son from a family friend after my Mom died in honor of my Mom’s love of books and reading. My Mom worked as a children’s librarian at points in her work life, and this friend very thoughtfully gave us a number of children’s books that my mom loved and probably would have enjoyed reading to our kids.
I remembered the basic story line from my own childhood: beloved toy rabbit longs to become "real". But as I was reading along, these lines hit me over the head like a cosmic 2 X 4.
It’s a conversation between the Velveteen Rabbit, and another
nursery toy, the Skin Horse, who has lived longer in the nursery than
any of the other toys:
"What is REAL?" asked the
Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side… "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 often happen 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’m not sure if my son saw the tears glinting in my eyes or not.
To become "real": it’s rough and tumble, and can leave you messy
and dishelveled. It takes a long time. It’s not for the fragile or
the faint of heart. But it’s also quite beautiful, because it’s about
love. It’s the process we’re each undertaking to find our true
callings, our voice, our place on earth where we can shine and make a
What does it mean to you to "become real"?
How does this impact how you’re working to make a difference?