Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Power of Words and Beauty of Sharing: New Friends in Far Off Places

Being a writer, it's very easy for me to feel anonymous. It's an incredibly solitary pastime and more often than not, I live in my own head. Sure, I know we have a healthy audience for our website and Facebook page, but still, the reach and power of this blog when I am behind the computer banging away at the keyboard is often lost on me...I write and share what I feel with the hopes that someone will like it, or that maybe it will resonate, inspire, or - at the very least - that I will be happy to have written whatever it was that I wrote so that when my memory fades I will always have something to look back on.

But every now and then something happens that reminds me of the power of my words. Of the beauty sharing. Of how putting our lives out there (which is something I have both directly and indirectly been criticized for) connects us so beautifully to others. One time it was a heartfelt email about how a "childless by choice" family decided to become parents as a direct result of this blog. Another time it was a tear-jerking missive from a veteran for whom our blog was a beacon of light while he was deployed overseas. Every single week we meet readers and followers who share our joy and love our story. We come home to treasures and gifts for the girls on the deck of our boat and readers come to our marina to meet us and say 'hi'. It's wonderful and I'm grateful to be able to touch these lives and - in turn - be touched by them. Because it is for sure a two-way street.

***

This week, my writer's spirit was touched again when we received a manilla envelope of no fewer than 47 hand drawn cards from one (very special) blog follower's 3rd grade classroom. The lovely Phyllis Dantzler reached out one day via Facebook and shared with me some pictures that her kids had drawn after being inspired by our story. "Could I send them to you?" she asked.  I was so touched by this that I reached out and we began a personal correspondence:
"I tell ya these kids live 40 miles from Edisto Beach SC and some have never seen the ocean. Cottageville is a small country town outside of Charleston. Low income area. When I told them about your family they were thrilled. We read one of your blogs together in class and for our writing block they wrote the letters to y'all. They loved seeing all the photos on our Smartboard. They call me their mermaid teacher lol. When we have spare time or inside recess guess what they want to read about? (your adventures). I heard one student talking on the playground about her new friends who live on a sailboat! Enjoy your wonderful life and we will live vicariously through you!!"
So she sent my mom the envelope of pictures who brought them down with her last week. And they are magic.

As a mom of tiny people who is constantly inundated by teachable moments, and who is particularly sensitive to making sure my kids not only accept but embrace others for their differences, what Phyllis did with her classroom really touched me. Not only did she use our lifestyle to engage her students with the earth and ocean, but she has also planted the seed to inspire thinking outside the box. On the surface, looking at our photos and reading about our lifestyle doesn't seem like much - but opening young minds to other ways of life, new ways of thinking, and exposing them to the world in a very human and relatable way - though watching other children - is actually quite powerful and brilliant. She is helping to normalize other ways of thinking and living, helping to fertilize young dreams and it is a great honor that she is using our family as a vehicle to do this.


The letters and pictures were precious and touching as all children's art is. "I want to live on a boat too one day" wrote several children. "Your kids are like roses, they are pretty" wrote another. "I want to come snorgle with you. I have never been snorgeling" wrote another adorable child (how cute is the misspelling of snorkel!?!). "You are a nice family, I want to visit you one day"...The girls and I flipped through all the pictures and notes, one by one, and I read to them these lovely messages from children we've never met, who live thousands of miles away and who's lives are so very different from our own. The exercise was two fold, of course, I wanted to share these lovely cards with the girls so that the student's effort was not wasted, but I also want our children to understand that not everyone lives like we do, and that we are very, very lucky to be able to live in such a unique way, and how neat it is that other's live different ways. Being grateful is another life lesson I am really trying to drill into the girls. (Side note: We'll see how I'm doing with my "lessons" and "teachable moments"...most days I'm wanting to pull my hair out and pretty sure I'm failing...sigh!)
So to the lovely Mrs. Dantzler's class, I want to give a great, big THANK YOU. Your lovely cards and words truly made our holiday season and warmed our hearts. If there is one piece of advice I could give to all the students in all the world it is one simple word: R E A D. Just, read.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” 
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
Be kind. Be good. Help others. Find beauty and magic in the little things. And read, read, read. Curiosity about the world combined with a love of knowledge and a thirst for reading are the keys to the universe (in my humble opinion). Your mind has no limits so fill it with good knowledge that can take you places and make your dreams come true.

In this vein, we have chosen some of our favorite books to add to your library to be read aloud together. We hope you enjoy our small selection and that these wonderful books (that are staples in our personal library), inspire some great conversations and life lessons. They should be arriving to Mrs. Dantzler any day now to be enjoyed in the New Year and beyond:

Oh, The Places You'll Go! - This is a classic Dr. Seuss book that should be read by EVERYONE, regularly. It offers fun, whimsical and valuable advice about life and making dreams come true. I read this book to Isla every single day for the first six months of her life (would have loved to read it to the twins as much but...twins. They were having none of it!) This is good for kids of all ages, from 1-100.

The Snail and the Whale - We love ALL of Julia Donaldson's book but this one is one of our favorites, it tells the tale of a travel eager snail who hitches a ride around the world on the tail of a whale despite snickers from her fellow snail community. They have loads of wonderful adventures and the snail learns a valuable lesson about her potential despite being so small in a big, big world.

Lola Tortola: Caribbean Limericks - We first bought this book in the Grenadines when we were sailing with Isla. It's lovely little limericks about the islands. The pictures are gorgeous and it's a great way to learn the names of some of the islands here in the Caribbean. We have traveled to just about all the islands they rhyme about! Maybe you can even try to write your own limericks!

The Jolly Mon - This great book, by Jimmy Buffett, is based on the lovely song "Jolly Mon" which tells the tale a of an island man who sang beautiful songs with a magical guitar. He takes off on a little sailboat to bring his music to all the neighboring islands, has a run-in with pirates, and is saved by a magic dolphin. A great little story.

The Little Island - This book is a magical classic that tells the story of a small island in the ocean. The island changes with storms and seasons and, one day when a cat visits, we learn about the interconnectedness of life. It's a lovely, timeless story.

***

We hope you all enjoy this selection of stories from your boat friends on Tortola. Thank you for touching our hearts and opening our minds. Big love to all of you kids! THANK YOU.

Haven being cheeky. As usual. She LOVED looking at all the pictures and wanted to color them in!
What beautiful pictures we got from the minds of these lovely children! We cherish all of them!

6 comments:

Russell Bridger said...

Terrific heartwarming account!

megerin.blogspot.com said...

Amazing! Made me smile. 😎

Aline said...

This just made my day. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful new friendship with us all. It's truly amazing to read where some of your readers are following your adventures from. And a big HELLO to Mrs. Dantzler's class!

Kent Pulliam said...

Way to go Mrs. Dantzler!

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