to katie: about forgiveness

Forgiveness is a big, complicated topic. There are many books, sermons, articles, lectures, and stories about forgiveness. I cannot possibly write one little letter about every way that people think about forgiveness, but I can let you know how I think of it.

Forgiveness is what we’re supposed to give when people hurt us. It’s also what Christians believe that God gives us when we do things that aren’t right.

So, what do you do exactly when you forgive someone?

I think that forgiving someone is (1) choosing not to take revenge, and (2) wanting the best for them, while (3) taking away their ability to hurt you again in the future if possible.

It’s more complicated than it sounds.

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to katie: about santa and fiction and reality

I love stories. I was raised by two of the greatest storytellers the world has ever known. My Mom, your Gramma, almost always has the perfect story, in any situation, and her stories always help me understand things a little better than I did before. My Dad, who you never got to meet, would not always tell helpful stories like Gramma, but his stories were always told with so much energy and humor that everyone in the room would gather around to listen.

Usually their stories were based on things that actually happened, real events. For example, one of Gramma’s favorite stories is about being at a party for a couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. Someone asked the couple, “Didn’t you ever want to leave each other in 50 years?” and the husband answered, “Well, sure we did. But thank the Lord, never on the same day.” That was a real couple, and a real party, and they really said those things (or something very close to that – a storyteller always has the right to put in an extra word or two to help make the story a little better). So that story is called “reality-based” because it is based on real stuff that nobody made up.

But sometimes stories are about people, places, things, or activities that are made up, pretend. For example, do you remember when Kevin and I told you and your sister the story of Star Wars? And every time we said “Darth Vader” you guys said “Dun Dun DUHHHHH!” (That still makes both of us laugh when we think about that). Well, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia and Han Solo and everything in Star Wars is not based on real events – someone made up those characters and those stories. That makes them fiction, not reality-based.

Now here’s the part that gets a little confusing: I think that fictional characters are a little bit real, in their own special way.

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to katie: about teasing

At some point, most kids get teased about one thing or another. It seems like almost everyone gets teased in middle school eventually. Here is my idea about why that is: middle school is a good time to figure out what you like and don’t like about friends, clothes, music, all kinds of stuff. And sometimes, if you don’t know what you like and don’t like, one fast way to tell is to make fun of something and see if other people join in making fun of it, or if they say “Hey, I like that, don’t make fun of it.”

The problem is, everyone in middle school is figuring out what they like and don’t like, and sometimes people join in teasing because it’s easier than standing up to your friends, so kids sometimes end up making fun of things that they actually like later when they stop to think about it. It can certainly be confusing and upsetting.

I know, because there were two groups of kids who made fun of me in middle school. But the good news is that I made some great friends, people who are still my friends today, more than 20 years later. And I have some wonderful memories of my middle school years. But those stories are for another letter.

This letter is about my stories of getting teased in middle school. Names have been changed so I won’t accidentally embarrass their kids if they happen to read this someday.

Alex and the Grab

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to katie: about disney princesses and story messages

Dear Katie: We’ve had a conversation about the Disney princess movies, and the messages you get from stories. It was a couple of years ago, and you and Claire were on the swings in the back yard, and we talked about a bunch of movies. Gramma said we talked for over an hour, and that you both looked like you were very interested in the conversation. Hopefully you will still find this conversation interesting now.

This letter has the summary at the beginning instead of the end, and here it is: People make movies to be entertaining, not to teach you how to live your life, so characters in movies often make decisions which would be horrible horrible horrible decisions to make in your life.

The Little Mermaid

Let’s start with the movie that I consider the worst offender: The Little Mermaid. For starters, Ariel decides she is in love with Eric because he’s beautiful. Eric decides he is in love with Ariel because he likes her voice. That’s it. Neither of them know if the other is nice or mean, generous or selfish, smart or not smart, fun or boring, and yet, they think they’re in love.

I do not think that is love. I think that is a crush. Read the rest of this entry »

to katie: about camp

Hey Katie! I hope you’re having a fabulous time already at camp!

One of the reasons I loved camp as a kid is because you get to “try out” different parts of yourself if you want to.

The people at camp do not all already know who you are – they do not already have expectations of how you will behave. So that means that you can try out being a little different than you usually are when you’re at camp, and find out if you like being that way!

Like for example, LEADERSHIP.

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to katie: about self-esteem and being special

When I was a kid, I got confused about “being special.”

I got confused because I noticed that everybody was told they were special. There were songs on the radio saying “you are special.” So every kid listening was being told they were special. And there were TV shows where people got tears in their eyes when they said, “Nobody ever told me I was special, so I never believed it, but now I do: I’m special!”

People told me I was special all the time. I was smart, like you are. I had a good singing voice like you do. I had a big heart like you do. I asked questions about the world and really listened to the answers like you do. And it seemed like every time I turned around, somebody was telling me I was special.

I thought that everybody got that message all the time, “You are special.” Turns out, some people have bad parents and bad teachers who never say that. It’s horrible to think about. I am glad you are not one of those people.

So anyway, here is how I got confused: if everybody is special, then it isn’t special to be special. And if something is true for everyone, then it is normal. So if everyone is special, then being special is just normal. Right?

Wrong. Very very very wrong.

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to katie: about fear, pain, and damage

Dear Katie:

I am going to tell you about one of the biggest mistakes I have made in my life. It has to do with fear, pain, and the difference between pain and damage.

I avoided going to the dentist for ten years. That was the mistake.

Why I avoided going to the dentist for ten years is complicated enough to deserve a letter.

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