This piece is what I might have said if I would have had an opportunity to speak at the 2015 Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference. In a future post or two I will write specifically about the conference.
My dear creative friends: bloggers, authors, poets, painters, sculptors, lyricists, editors, comic strip creators, and so on. Please don’t give up on your art.
Did you know the words you wrote would invade my world, giving wings to my imagination? Did you realize that your drawings, paintings, and sculptures would speak to my heart in ways that defy words?
You were there as a gentle guide when I first attempted to read. It was hard; I was an active child with more interest in my physical surroundings than words on a page. You conspired with my second grade teacher to breach the walls of resistance. At the first crack, tendrils of joyful imagination shone through, penetrating my heart. Your words made that happen. For this child. For millions in every generation.
The Cat in the Hat and so many others were my friends. You comforted me in the coming years as I continued to struggle. While classmates mocked me for my placement in a lower reading level, you gave me refuge in imaginary worlds I could understand. When they hurled abusive words at me for wearing hearing aids, you listened to my broken heart as I resonated with the travails of your characters. Deep in the twilight between silence and muted sound, your words rang clear, penetrating my emotional fog and defense mechanisms. You showed me love. Understanding. Compassion.
You did that.
As childhood gave way to adolescence, you welcomed me when few others cared to do so. Junior high was a war zone. I navigated it with the brave help of Bilbo, Frodo, and Samwise Gamgee. Hazel, Bigwig, Fiver, Silver and the rest of their displaced friends gave voice to the confusion and fear I often felt.
I paid closest attention to the ordinary details of your characters. Their flaws, insecurities, fears, stubbornness, hope.
At eighteen years old, I clung to their hope even as I swam in depression and stood at the precipice of suicide on a cliff face somewhere along the Washougal River.
They helped to expose my choices and the resulting hurts, allowing healing to begin.
As I entered adulthood, your memoirs silenced fears of telling my personal story; well, mostly. Didn’t it hurt to be so–well–vulnerable? When you wrote of your pain, my scars throbbed, my tears flowed.
When you revealed your failures, I remembered mine and wondered if I could be so brave as you. There is no adversary so potent as the one we allow residence in our thinking and in our hearts.
You also made me laugh as the T-Rex chased Calvin through a ravine, as Alice explored the marvelous wonders of her cul-de-sac, and as irony slapped uptight religious pharisaism on its backside, whispering for it to relax.
Now in my middle years, I remember your influence through paintings of words, sculptures of poetry, and breathtaking excursions into your story.
Thank you. May the joy you’ve given me fill your heart also as you continue to pursue your craft. Someone–no, many someone’s out there need your art. Enter their story through yours even as God orchestrates your journey.