Friday, February 7, 2020

Don't miss the point.

My good friend Randy -- the genius behind the "Helix" series -- sent me a text today. Apparently he is already polishing the third Helix book (Honestly, I think he may be finished with the third, fourth, and fifth! He is driven to spread the inspiration of that little tortoise!). 

Randy texted me to let me know he received a criticism after sharing the manuscript for book 3 with a reader: "I was confused about why Helix needed wheels in the first place...."

The reader said it was the ONLY problem with the story but that he really needed to know why Helix had a disability.

Well, ya'll my head started spinning. This critic was not talking about the book I had the honor to write with Randy and yet my immediate thought was that I didn't give a back story either. And then the criticism felt like it was at MY feet. I felt all the emotions of failure swirling in my head for about three minutes before taking a deep breath and realizing I knew exactly who the un-named critic was:

She must be the woman we met in a restaurant one night. She pointed out Benjamin to her children, then proceeded to ask us what happened to him. As she walked away from our table, I heard her say "Oh bless his heart," to her kids.

Oooh, no! I bet it was the man we met at the grocery store who asked why Benjamin couldn't walk within two seconds of getting in line behind us at the checkout.

Wait! I bet it was the older gentleman at church who wanted to know if Benjamin would EVER be able to walk???

Listen, little children ask Benjamin questions all the time about his wheels. He doesn't mind answering them because little children don't ask with pity -- they just have young minds that are growing and learning and the way to do all of that is to ask questions. Much like Edward in "Helix Rolls Into A Sleepover" these little question-askers mainly want to know that Benjamin is not in pain, that he isn't sick.

But when adults ask? Well, first they typically ask me, not Benjamin. In general they assume because he can not walk, he can not speak and then with eyes full of pity -- and usually a voice full of condescension -- they ask what happened to him. After their questions are satisfied, they walk away, without even the courtesy of engaging us in further conversation. I am not saying that they have malintent. These adults might -- like the children -- simply want to know if he is in pain. BUT, more often than not, we are left feeling that they wanted to ensure he isn't contagious. And usually they run away as if he is.

So my reply text to my friend -- It doesn't matter WHY Helix has wheels. That is not the point of the story.

I need to say that again: It is not the point. The point is that Helix DOES have wheels and this is what life looks like when you roll through life rather than walk. And though our target audience is elementary age children who we hope will learn empathy, compassion, and insight perhaps, just perhaps, our target audience should be adults who need all those things too.

What difference does the why of Benjamin's wheels make? What you need to know is that he has them BUT that doesn't stop you from having much in common!

See, I can also tell you who didn't write that critique of the book:

Cindy Ramsdell, the 2nd grade teacher, who didn't ask WHY he had a wheelchair. No, instead she asked how she could best layout her classroom to get Benjamin surrounded by his friends.

Sharon & Steve Rodriguez, theatre company directors, who didn't ask WHY he had a wheelchair. No, instead they built every set for ten or more shows with a ramp worked into the design.

Sean, Josh, CJ, Dillon, etc, all amazing friends of Benjamin's who didn't ask WHY he had a wheelchair. No, instead they found what they had in common and spent hours, years, a lifetime engaging and enjoying the benefits of a friend like Benjamin!

We can tell you that Benjamin was born three months too early and that his legs just don't work like your legs as a result. But is that necessary? It is more than likely NOT something you have in common with him....but that doesn't mean there aren't a million other things that you DO have in common.

It doesn't matter why Helix rolls through life. And frankly, if you think it does, you missed the point.

(Don't forget to pre-order "Helix"Helix Rolls Into A Sleepover" -- we are just five days from release!!)

Carol - The Blessings Counter