How to Help the Hurting (Lessons from Samara’s Peril)

The Hurting Hero

It’s no secret that I’m a complete pushover when it comes to mistreated people (real and fictional). My brother read Resistance before me. When I started it, he told me he already knew who my favorite character would be–Jace. He was right.

Help the Hurting

The sympathy that fictional characters stir in me has played a large role in shaping my passions. As a twelve-year-old who spent the majority of the summer with her nose in a book, my thoughts and pretend games often revolved around how I would help the characters in my latest story–the lonely orphan, the bullied school kid, the frightened immigrant, the ill-treated slave.

Imagination Grows Up

People often think their imaginations dry up as they transition to adulthood, but maybe they just mature with us. Obviously my brain hasn’t stopped fantasizing over helping fictional people (it’s an author thing). However, I can now use abstract thinking to move that inspiration into the real world.

Jace spends much of Samara’s Peril hurting. He sinks into depression. He battles loneliness. His past haunts him. Jace is fictional, but his struggles are not.

Fictional Spark. Real Action.

I love how persistent Kyrin and Rayad are in loving Jace. Even when he pushes them away and causes them pain, they refuse to let him struggle alone. I love them as characters because of the way they care for others.

What can we do when we close the last page, return to our bedroom from a land of fantasy, and think with a happy sigh, “I want to hug Jace. I want to be like Kyrin and Rayad.”? Just ask yourself, “Who do I know who is depressed, anxious, lonely, scared? How can I love that person?

A Few Ideas

Kyrin nodded and wiped her cheeks as she rose. “Come on. I know it’s hard, but you must eat. You need the strength.” She held out her hand.

Jace gazed at it a moment, and then took it, the warmth and connection like a lifeline to his battered heart. She helped him up and did not let go for a long moment before turning and leading the way downstairs.

Loving doesn’t have to be extravagant or difficult. It doesn’t have to achieve want we want it to (more on that in a moment). It’s all about being aware, attentive, and genuine. Love tells people, “You are not invisible. You are not just part of the crowd. I see you as a unique individual–made in the image of God–and it is my joy to invest moments of my life into yours.”

If you’re at a loss for how to reach out, here are some quick ideas.

  • Send a note. Handwritten letters are always special (especially to older people), but if penmanship is not your forte or your schedule barely allows you to breathe, don’t despair. A quick email to say, “I’m thinking of you” or to ask, “How can I pray for you?” is sure to brighten anyone’s day.
  • Listen. At a missionary conference I recently attended, one missionary lady said that missionary kids and their families crave for people to listen to them. She said that the lack of shared commonality makes many people uncomfortable with simply listening, but their quickness to interrupt can make missionary families keenly aware of their own struggle to fit in. The art of listening is a wonderful way to show you care.
  • Spend Time Together. Nothing reinforces loneliness like watching other people rush around with “things to do and people to see,” while not having anyone to rush with or to. Sometimes the best gift is a phone call, an invitation to come over to play board games, or an hour spent hovering over two cups of coffee that would have been cheaper to make at home.
  • Send a Package. This is one of my favorite things (both to send and receive). There’s something about receiving a random package full of goodies that creates a sense of wonder. Several friends and I once figured out how many love languages a letter or packages speaks to. A package obviously touches a person who feels loved through receiving gifts. The time put into into preparing it speaks to a person who is loved through quality time. The servant’s heart behind (and perhaps practical items in) the package can warm the heart of a person who is loved through acts of service. The words in a note and the personalization of the package shows affection to the person loved through words of affirmation. If you want to stretch it to include all five love languages, you could even say that the tangible nature of a letter and package is the closest thing you can get to physical touch without being there in person.

Only God Can

One of Kyrin’s deepest pains is that she can’t get through to Jace. She doesn’t want him to hurt, but her love can’t penetrate his despair. In the same way, we may not be able to help our hurting friends to the extent we want to. One of my friends wrote the following quote into a book she’s working on…

As I mentioned above, love doesn’t have to achieve what we want it to. Results shouldn’t determine our behavior. Our role is to be obedient to God‘s calling–which includes courageously loving those around us. He is the only one with the power to heal souls, and He is mighty to save. Which brings me to a final way to help.

  • Pray.  God is the only one who can give true healing, so bring the lonely, depressed, and anxious to Him in prayer.

Can you think of anyone you know who has needs similar to those of a fictional character you wish you could help? Can you add more practical ways to show love to my list?

P.S. The graphic for this post has subtle relevance for readers very familiar with Jace’s story. Any idea what it is?

3 Lessons from A Little Princess

Once on a dark winter’s day, when the yellow fog hung so think and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.

This paragraph snatches readers into the whimsical London of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s imagination. As long-time readers of my blog know, this story world of contrasts is one of my favorite fictional landing places and has captivated me for almost a decade. Since we’ve been exploring the impact of fiction lately, it seemed fitting to do a post on the lessons in A Little Princess.

Lessons from ALP

A Good Name Is Rather To Be Chosen Than Great Riches

“It’s true,” she said. “Sometimes I do pretend I am a princess. I pretend I am a princess so that I can try and behave like one.”

When I first read A Little Princess, the luxury surrounding Sara Crewe fascinated me. When I thought about the fabrics, I could almost feel them. When I read about the shoes that Lavinia claimed were designed to make Sara’s feet look small, I wondered if my shoes made my feet look small. However, when all that was stripped from her, my sense of fascination with Sara didn’t lessen.

Sara’s richness doesn’t revolve around the things she owns. Her toys and dresses are interesting, but her personality and imagination make her surroundings breathtaking regardless of their material worth.

A Little Princess is a Cinderella story. Sara’s desire to behave like a princess could just as easily translate into Cinderella’s mantra, “Have courage and be kind.” Sara shows readers that cultivating an attitude rich in charity is a sort of wealth that can’t be stolen away like physical possessions.

Sara made me want a princess-like heart just as much as princess-worthy belongings.

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You

“Why,” she said, “we are just the same–I am only a little girl like you.”

Sara does not make a habit of judging people by their social class, intellect, or appearance. When she needs someone in need of friendship, she eagerly seeks an opportunity to show kindness to that person. Her lack of superiority allows her to make genuine friends who love her as much when she is a pauper as when she was an heiress.

“She is hungrier than I am,” she said to herself. ” She’s starving.” But her hand trembled when she put down the fourth bun. “I’m not starving,” she said–and she put down the fifth.

This quote comes from one of the most vivid scenes in A Little Princess. Sara has reached an all time low, and Miss Minchin cold-heartedness is unrelenting. Deprived of meals, Sara happens across an abandoned coin. She uses the coin to get buns from a bakery, then gives away most of her purchase in order to help a girl worse off than herself. Part of being a princess, she tells herself, is feeding the populace.

Sara made me want to have an abundance mentality before I even knew the term.

The Trying of Your Faith Worketh Patience

“Yes,” answered Sara, nodding. “Adversity tries people, and mine has tried you and proved how nice you are.”

This sort of goes along with the first point. If Sara’s kindness had evaporated with her money, A Little Princess would be a very different story. Instead she is transformed from a spoiled child that has managed to remain level-headed to a girl who has proven her mettle and her character. When her riches are restored to her at the end of the story, they seem better than ever before because she has been tried by adversity and proved to be “nice.”

We are children of the King of Kings, heirs to unimaginable riches, yet we are to live in a world that we are not part of (John 17:13-19). Does our behavior evidence who we are in Christ?

Sara made me want to endure hardness while maintaining a good testimony.

Conclusion

Obviously I didn’t have such philosophical thoughts the the first time I read A Little Princess. To be honest, I only recently realized how many lessons stories have tucked into my heart. It’s really neat to look back and put words to the practical inspiration generated by stories like this one.

If you’ve read A Little Princess, do any of these lessons ring true for you? What is one positive, practical inspiration you’ve drawn from a story?

The Legacy of Fiction

A hymn I enjoy begins with the words, “It only takes a spark, to get a fire going, And soon all those around, can warm up in it’s glowing.” The song refers to God’s love, which is obviously more important and more powerful than fictional stories. However, I’ve been reminded recently of the lasting impact a story can have.

Legacy of Fiction

Returning to books I enjoyed as a young reader often shows me how various stories shaped who I am today (stay tuned for a post about ways A Little Princess inspired me). For example, a few months ago I re-read The Hundred Dresses. As I read, I realized it was this story that sparked my determination to introduce myself to each new person at my homeschool group. I never wanted anyone to feel the way the Polish girl in the story did, and I never wanted to regret not being friendly to someone the way the narrator did.

While the phrase “show, don’t tell” can be a writer’s bane, it is the essence of impactful fiction. Stories are amazing because a well crafted tale allows readers to absorb important lessons without anyone telling them what they’re supposed to learn. The Hundred Dresses didn’t tell me, “Don’t let peer pressure cause you to be unkind.” Instead, it made me feel sympathetic. It pulled me into the loneliness of a girl who didn’t fit in, and the struggle of a girl afraid to share her fate. After reading it, no one had to tell me, “Befriend new people, lonely people, people of different cultures, and outcasts.” Instead, I spent hours daydreaming ways I would have made friends with the girl in the story. I imagined what I would say to her and mentally acted out our conversations. I crafted the words I would use to tell the mean girls how wrong they were.

India_45_FToday, there are few things I enjoy more than making friends with people of different cultures. My existing friends laugh at how predictable I am when I meet someone who speaks Spanish as their first language, because it rarely takes long for me to strike the bargain, “I’ll help you with English if you help me improve my Spanish!” I love listening to my Indian friends tell me of love found through arranged marriage. Trying the food and clothing of different cultures is a special excitement. When a new “girl” (or woman) shows up at church, I do my best to introduce myself and make her feel welcome.

Some of these traits are part of my personality and upbringing. However, I know that reading The Hundred Dresses many years ago triggered a lot of these habits that shape who I am as adult. What I didn’t realize was that the affect of the story reached beyond myself.

Last week, my family went to a special annual event done by our old homeschool group. We enjoyed catching up with old friends and seeing how much the “little kids” have grown up. After the performances, one of the moms and I were talking, and she took a moment to introduce me to a newcomer . Her introduction was, “This is Leah. She was the first person to introduce herself to me and the kids when we started coming here.” When the other person left, the mom turned back to me and said, “Your introduction made such an impact on me. Now, when there are new families, I have my children go and introduce themselves.”

You never know how your actions will impact other people, or how long lasting the impact will be.

I think it is incredible to look back and pinpoint the small things that sparked bigger things and follow how those things have grown over the years. As a lover of books, it’s especially neat to see how often stories are responsible for inspiring practical things in real life. Fiction–good fiction–is not a waste of time. It inspires and challenges us.

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder…
The Call, from Prince Caspian

What legacy has fiction left in your life? What practical actions have stories inspired you to take? How have books shaped the person you are today?

What I Learned from Steve Rzasa’s Novel, The Word Unleashed

Word Unleashed, ThePlease refer to my review of, The Word Reclaimed.

What makes a book a hero level story to you? There are two things for me. The first is a superb writing skill. Some writers have an uncanny knack for crafting achingly real characters or plot twists that physically raise your heart rate. I give those books five star rating on Facebook and Amazon. But the second characteristic that makes a story “hero level” to me is even more important. Stories that teach me something. I don’t mean a wonderful non-fiction book (though there are a bunch of hero level non-fiction books) or a heavy-handed message in a novel. I’m talking about writers who may or may not have astounding ability in the technical aspects of story but can bleed pieces of their heart, inspiration, and life mission into the fabric of their stories.

Steve Rzasa’s books, The World Reclaimed and The Word Unleashed impressed an encouraging reminder upon me. The books are space odysseys that pulled me into the struggles of the characters, led me through more world-building detail than I personally care for, and left me with something far less fictional.

God Is Sovereign

No kidding, Leah. I hope you already knew that! Don’t worry, I know and have known for most of my life that God is sovereign. These books just drove the lesson home a little further. They shed light on the truth from a slightly different angle.

One of my personal favorite characters was a guy named Jason–a man charged with protecting antiqued copies of God’s word from destruction at the hands of Kesek. He anxiously watches Baden–the main character–carry an old copy of the Bible into dangerous situations. He urges Baden to take care, saying the precious Bible is not something to be carelessly waved around. As time goes on, Jason begins to recognize God’s hand at work.

“I feared the loss of Scripture and all it represented.” Jason’s breathing grew shallower. “The fear that there would be no evidence of Christianity beyond memories and scattered teachings consumed me. That is why I and the Seventy hid the relics we found.”

“But they do have to be protected.”

“Yes!” Jason coughed. Flecks of blood speckled his pants. Gail held out the subdermal spray but he waved it off. “They need protection, but not seclusion. Baden, you had with you the greatest gift God could give man, but now it’s gone. I should not have made you conceal it.”

Tears burned Baden’s eyes. “Hey, it’s all right. [Spoilers edited out] That’s what Jesus wanted, right? For everyone to hear.”

Jason’s expression brightened for a moment. “You have more courage than I.” He clapped Baden’s shoulder. [Spoiler] “The Lord will always protect his word. [Spoiler] With or without us.”

I’m like Jason–a worrier. I’m fearful. Concern for family members and friends, orphans and world catastrophes sometime fill my mind and put a cloud over the brightness of God’s omnipotence. I’ll tell you some inside information. No matter how much time I spend worrying, my anxiety changes nothing (Luke 12:22-32).

Conclusion

My brother likes to repeat the quote, “When you see God panic, that’s a good time for you to panic too.” These books reminded me of that. Characters who were not seeking God and were not influenced by Christians stumbled across God’s word and were changed by it’s power. Jason had to learn to trust God in troubling situations.

I was reminded through the emotional impact of story that it’s not up to me to fix the world’s problems, get people saved, or put them on the right track. I can only follow God’s commands and pray to be His tool as He heals the wounded, saves the lost, and guides His followers along the path He set for them.

What have you learned from the books you’ve read lately?