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Letters To Children

Mrs. Klein read us The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis in 4th grade. She introduced my classmates and I to the land of Narnia.

Because we could all read at that point, our parents had stopped reading us bedtime stories years ago. We couldn’t articulate why at the time, nor did we try, but we all cherished that part of the day. We’d sit cross-legged on the dark shag carpet in our makeshift classroom straining and craning, all knees and elbows inching closer to the small black images that appeared at the beginning of each chapter. Mostly though, we created Narnia in our minds, with Lewis’s words, Mrs. Klein’s inflection and the springboard an effective book illustrator launches us from.

She had the exact right temperament for kids our age. She was firm and expected much. She understood while we talked a good game about wanting to be treated like older kids, what we really craved was the innocence and imagination childhood still held for us. We delighted to daydream in Narnia, when all the curriculum alternatives looked like long division and geography.

I don’t remember understanding at the time that Aslan, the lion was symbolically Christ. But, I do remember how Mrs. Klein made us feel when we sat hanging on her words – bemoaning the end of a chapter or the ringing of the school bell.

She was my introduction to C.S. Lewis. She was also one of the last teachers I remember encouraging us to linger in childhood a bit longer.

We’ve been haunting a new library as of late and the young adult and children sections are wonderful. In three visits I have not made it to the adult section, but I did discover “Letters to Children,” by C. S. Lewis and it feels just like a good book ought to – like a deliciously crinkly old friend who warms you from the inside with wine, truth and compassion.

C.S. Lewis received thousands of letters in his lifetime from young fans of the Narnia books and he personally responded to most of them. The book is a collection of his responses, in which he gives advice, answers questions and encourages his young readers. He talks to children a lot like Mrs. Klein did, with genuine interest, kindness and respect.

Consistency of habit is so often the root of my admiration for those that lead great lives and inspire. They are the folks who have the discipline to not only define their priorities, but relentlessly live them. We all know what we should do to get in better shape, master a craft, a sport or a subject. But, it’s only the discipline of actually doing the thing consistently that elevates the outcome.

C.S. Lewis got up each morning and started his day answering letters, mostly by inkwell. As a prolific writer and professor, he set aside time each morning to personally respond to these letters. I was a bit blown away by the generosity in which he shared his time and talent.

It’s convicting to identify small snippets of time in our own lives where we could be focusing on some larger goal 15, 20, 30 minutes at a time.

C.S. Lewis wrote to this god-daughter in 1949:

“Oh – I’d nearly forgotten – I have one other piece of advice. Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do. (1) Things we ought to do (2) Things we’ve got to do (3) Things we like doing. I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like because other people read them. Things you ought to do are things like doing one’s school work or being nice to people. Things one has got to do are things like dressing and undressing, or household shopping. Things one likes doing – but of course I don’t know what you like. Perhaps you’ll write and tell me one day.”

It’s a sweet little list, don’t you think?

Happy Monday friends.

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