When I was a small child, my parents divorced and I lived in a household of 4 generations. Great Grandmother (Nannie) Grandparents (Nana & Pop) Dad and Diana (older sister) and I. These years were very good for me and somewhat an enchanted period in my life. I was happy, secure and well cared for and loved. Nearly every night, we had a bedtime ritual of Nana tucking Di and I into bed and reading to us before prayers. Every night some book of childhood Nursery tales was brought out and read aloud. Diana & I (usually freshly washed) would lay at the foot of our beds and Nana would read about distant kingdoms and far away places. One of my favorites and she read it to us more than once was “The Velveteen Rabbit“. If you have never read it, you should.
A boy receives a Velveteen Rabbit for Christmas. The Velveteen Rabbit is snubbed by other more expensive or mechanical toys, the latter of which fancy themselves real. One day while talking with the Skin Horse, the Rabbit learns that a toy becomes real if its owner really and truly loves it. The Skin Horse makes the Velveteen Rabbit aware that “…once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
When the boy’s china dog is misplaced, the Velveteen Rabbit is given to the boy as a quick replacement by the maid. The Velveteen Rabbit soon takes his place as the boy’s constant companion. The Rabbit becomes shabbier, but the boy loves him no matter what. In the woods near the boy’s home, the Velveteen Rabbit meets actual rabbits, and learns about the differences between himself and the real rabbits when the real rabbits prove he is not real by his inability to hop and jump.
The Velveteen Rabbit’s companionship with the boy lasts until the boy falls ill with scarlet fever. The boy becomes too ill to play for a very long time; upon his recovery, he is sent to the seaside on doctor’s orders. The doctor orders all the toys the boy has played with, including the Rabbit, be burned in order to disinfect the nursery. The boy is given a new plush rabbit and is so excited about the trip to the seaside that he forgets his old Velveteen Rabbit. While awaiting the bonfire, in which the Velveteen Rabbit will be burned, the Rabbit cries a real tear. This tear brings forth the Nursery Magic Fairy. She tells the Rabbit that he was only real to the boy, and then brings him to the woods and kisses him, making him real to everybody. He soon discovers that he is a real rabbit at last and runs to join the other rabbits in the wild.
The following spring, the boy sees the Rabbit hopping in the wild and thinks he looks like his old Velveteen Rabbit, but he never knows that it actually was.
In the story there is a line that I love: Skin Horse to Rabbit
— Margery Williams Bianco (The Velveteen Rabbit)
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”
Romans 12:9-13 New Living Translation Bible