“We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey,” wrote American educator and businessman Stephen Covey. There cannot be a more important lesson to teach our children.
First, of course, children need to understand the power of love. One of Aesop’s Fables makes this very point:
The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. They saw a traveler coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveler to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.”
So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveler. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveler wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair.
Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.
As we journey through life, let’s stay on a righteous path, shunning the chilling winds of hate and embracing the warm, comforting rays of love. And, let’s teach our littlest spiritual beings about the simple, yet incredibly complex aspects of love. Here are a few children’s book that can start that process.
Love Is Limitless
“I Love You to the Moon and Back” by Amelia Hepworth is a cute, rhyming board book. In it, a bear and a cub begin their day together with lots of fun and when evening comes, they snuggle together. The bear says, “So snuggle safely in my arms, our day is nearly done. I love you to the moon and stars, my precious little one.”
We can assume that this story is speaking of a parent’s love for its child. However, the book can also apply to other kinds of strong, lasting love, expressed by the idea of reaching to the moon. What a beautiful, simple thought: Love is limitless; it has no boundaries.
Love Finds a Way
In “While We Can’t Hug (A Hedgehog and Tortoise Story),” a picture book, by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar, a hedgehog and tortoise are physically separated because of social distancing. A wise owl comes along and tells them that even though they can’t hug, there are lots of other ways to show love.
Standing on opposite pages, the pair send signals, letters, dances, air kisses, songs, and so on across the empty space. So creative!
The ending, though, is what moves the reader: “They could not touch. They could not hug. But they both knew that they were loved.”
Love Is Worth the Risk
“The Old Woman Who Named Things” by Cynthia Rylant is a story about a very old woman who has outlived all her friends and is afraid to love again. To compensate, she names her belongings, which will outlive her, and thinks of them as living things.
One day, a stray puppy appears, which she feeds, but sends away afterwards. Every day the puppy returns, gets fed, and then the woman sends it away. Time passes and the old woman now feeds the dog but doesn’t claim it by naming the stray or by letting it stay.
One day, the dog doesn’t show up, and the woman eventually goes looking for it, only to find the dog in a pound. When a pound employee asks about its name, the woman must make a decision. She thinks about not only how fortunate she is to find the dog again but also how lucky she was to have had her friends although she outlived them all. She takes the dog, now named “Lucky,” home with her.
The book encapsulates for children Hilary Stanton Zunin’s quote: “The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief–But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.”
Love Begets Love
“Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch” by Eileen Spinelli features a man who is very detached from those around him. He follows quite a dull routine and is never really noticed. Things change when the mail carrier delivers a mysterious package with a big pink bow and a special note that says, “Somebody loves you.”
This simple gift changes Mr. Hatch’s outlook on life. Since he doesn’t know who sent it to him, he starts to do good deeds for all. Mr. Hatch really blooms, as does the artwork, which changes from pale colors to bright, happy ones.
Weeks later, the mail carrier arrives with the news that the package was delivered to the wrong address. This upsets poor Mr. Hatch and he returns to his old ways as a recluse. However, Mr. Hatch has now become so much a part of the community that when it is disclosed that the package was delivered by mistake, his friends and neighbors rally around him. They make a huge sign that says, “Everybody loves Mr. Hatch.”
The book illustrates beautifully the idea that how you present yourself to the world is how the world responds.
Letting Go Does Not Mean Losing Love
In “Love Is” by Diane Adams, a little girl finds a duckling that has wandered away from the park onto the city streets; she takes it home to care for it. The baby duck requires constant attention and the adorable illustrations show her working hard to do just that. The one where the girl and duck are nose to nose is especially sweet.
Time passes and there comes a day when the pet duck has grown too big for the bathtub. The girl knows the duck is ready to go back to the pond, but is sad as she nudges it toward the water.
As time passes and the girl misses the duck, she visits the pond one day and the duck approaches her in a loving way—accompanied by its six ducklings. Now, of course, she has more to love.
This joyous book shows the beauty of loving and being loved back.
Linda Wiegenfeld is a retired teacher. She can be reached for comments or suggestions at LWiegenfeld@aol.com. For other children’s books on the same topic, visit the author’s previous Epoch Times article “Children’s Books About Ways Love Is Expressed.”