No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
~ John 15:13
In the memories of children, some of our most cherished friends were familiar books — read time and again, and shared with parents, then children and grandchildren. And two of the best friends in children’s literature are Charlotte (A. Cavatina) and Wilbur. Two characters unlikely to be friends with one another, or to capture the imaginations of children: a spider, who often invokes fear, and a pig, condemned to die because of his very nature. Yet they become heroes of our lifetime for the way they practice sacrificial love for one another, in the manner of Jesus the Christ.
One unknown blogspot author noted the way that Charlotte presents readers with a “beautiful and unusual picture of Christ” as someone “despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53:5)”.[i] They also point out that it is Wilbur’s humility (highlighted by the word HUMBLE which Charlotte weaves into her web at the county fair) that ultimately saves his life. And in relating to these two characters, children — as Jesus calls us all to be — find a cure for their fears.
Author Louise Penny (creator of the Armand Gamache mysteries) gave an interview with Will Schwalbe for Literary Hub where she talked about the ways that children’s literature helps young ones overcome their deepest fears. “The thing every child fears most is
being left alone, orphaned, abandoned. But when they read about kids who were and how they survived, it’s a way of confronting their greatest fear. If another kid can survive it, so can they.”[ii]
Louise grew up afraid — especially of spiders!– but as a voracious reader. All that changed when she read “Charlotte’s Web”: What
happened in that instant that was life-changing and magical and mystical is that I realized that I loved Charlotte. And I wanted nothing bad to happen to her. And she was a friend of mine. And in that instant, my cardinal fear was lifted.. . . And I understood that it came from the power of the word, the power of storytelling. And the power of imagination. To heal.
This summer we invited all of God’s children to participate in the healing power of story in our Sacred Arts Camp and culminating performances of Charlotte’s Web as a play. Our child and adult storytellers overcame their own fears to bring a powerful and magical experience to audiences. Stay tuned for pictures and recaps of our Summer fun!