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Lessons from Dr. Seuss

4.27. 2016 Posted By: The Mennonite

One of my favorite books when I was little was The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss. I still have, and read, the well-worn copy my Dad used to read to my sister and me.

If you’ve never read this story, I highly recommend it. It is the story of yellow bird like creatures, the Sneetches. Some of them have large green stars on their bellies and some do not. The star-bellied Sneetches are considered “special.” They have parties on the beach and the plain-bellied Sneetches are not invited.

One day a mysterious man, Sylvester McMonkey McBean, arrives with a special machine that he calls the star-on sneetchmachine and offers the plain-belly Sneetches this treatment for three dollars. They take him up on this offer and when the star-bellied Sneetches figure out what’s going on they are outraged, but no worries, McBean has a star-off machine and charges ten dollars for the removal of the belly stars. Soon it’s chaos as the Sneetches run from machine to machine until “every last cent of their money was spent.”

McBean packs up his money and his machines and drives away, leaving the Sneetches behind.

They look around and, “That day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches. That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether they had one, or not, upon thars.”

We’re all bombarded with the us vs. them narrative. It seems like every single day we see this played out in the media–Democrats vs. Republicans, rich vs. poor and so much more. I don’t have anything new or revolutionary to say or add. I just think it is so important to keep the conversations open.

On Sunday we had a special service. It had snowed about 10 inches the night before, so the congregation was very small. We had a discussion about safety and the things that make us fearful.

One person pointed out that so many people who do violent and scary things do them out of fear. Too often our response to those things is fear and the solutions we come up with (namely, incarceration) only put a bandage on the problem instead of healing the wounds.

We have a special family friend named Hassan. To learn more about the work he is doing to change this narrative you should read my pastor, Betsy Headrick-McRae’s blog that was recently posted. Hassan was incarcerated for many years, and throughout his time he had many teachers. One of them was a counselor who he wanted to thank for all the things she had done for him. When he found himself unable to speak his gratitude, she said “just be kind to people.”

That story has stayed with me since the first time I heard it. It’s what I teach my children. I think we all do. I’ve heard that it takes bravery to be kind. It also takes bravery to move past our fear–to walk toward things that scare us and away from us vs. them.

Possibly we should be teaching our children something more complex, and someday we will; but for now we’re going to stick with the simple message that can be found in the pages of Dr. Suess–some people are born with belly-stars and some people are not.

The stars don’t really matter; what matters most is compassion. So be kind to people, just try to start there.


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