This past Sunday our story for all ages was Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews. This book, a former Reading Rainbow selection, features a young Inuit girl living on Ungava Bay in northern Canada. The action centers around her going under the ice of the frozen bay while the tide is out, in order to gather mussels to eat. In the story it’s noted that this is the first time she’s going out by herself.
After the service a few people let me know they found the story a little scary. I agree that there is a part of the story where our main character encounters a great challenge, which is frightening.
The thing is… children’s stories have always had scary parts to them. The Disney versions of classic fairy tales are watered down versions of the originals. In the Grimm Brothers’ version of Cinderella, birds peck out the eyes of the evil stepsisters. In the oldest version of Snow White, the evil queen is required to wear a pair of molten iron shoes until she dies of the pain. And remember Hansel and Gretel – they save their own lives by pushing the evil witch into the oven where she’d planned to cook the children!
Psychologists tell us that these stories are actually an important part of childhood. They give children a chance to do a ‘dress rehearsal’ of sorts in their own minds, on how to cope with real frightening things. There are also some children who cannot avoid knowing about the more difficult aspects of life, who are already living with situations as terrifying as any in ancient fairy tales.
If anywhere, our faith community should be a place where we can talk about our fears – and how to cope with them. We also talk about hopes and dreams – and how to make them real. Along with being curious, we can also be vulnerable – and tenderly held by this Beloved Community.
To borrow a phrase from The Wizard of Oz… There’s no place like “the UU.”
Rev. Lori Hlaban