Margery Williams published The Velveteen Rabbit in 1922.
When Margery was seven, she lost her father in a sudden death. Throughout her life, there was a thread of pain, suffering, and sadness in her writing. Yet, she affirmed that through pain and adversity, hearts become more human.
Though English by birth, Margery moved to America with her family and became inspired by the innocence of children against the backdrop of the war to end all wars.
As she took her pen and began to write, she asked one of life's great questions: What is real?
Out of that internal dialogue emerged a beautiful story: The Velveteen Rabbit.
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.
"Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the skin horse only smiled. - Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit (Read the whole illustrated story online!)
This is one of those stories from children's literature that is almost always sure to bring a tear to my eye. I have read it aloud many times to children and adults. It continues to touch me at the depth of my soul.
So many people stagger through life in an unreal shell of a persona. They struggle with fear of rejection or repulsion at the idea of the pain they might have to suffer in the process of becoming authentic. The pain is real and the risks are real.
However, the rewards are also real for being real.
The great theme of The Velveteen Rabbit is becoming real.
"...once you become real, you can't be ugly, except to those who don't understand."
And so it is among the battle scarred, war torn, life worn, lovelorn souls who face and embrace life. Being real is a thing of great value and a gift of great grace from God. To reject our authenticity is to reject wonder.
To reject wonder is to reject life.
To reject life is to reject God.
There was a very cautious man
Who never laughed or played.
He never risked, he never tried,
He never sang or prayed.
And when he one day passed away,
His insurance was denied.
For since he never really lived,
They claimed he never died.
Read the story here: The Velveteen Rabbit