what do we strive for above all else?
As a teenager, my mom suggested to me that the best career choice I could make was to be a children’s book artist and writer. Being a teenager, I of course decided that was the last thing I wanted to be. Ever.
Well, it turned out, after I had a daughter of my own, I realized my mother was right. It didn’t need to be the full scope of my career but it was certainly something I could do. And something I now wanted to do, with the inspiration of my child in front of me and all the wonder she reminded me of from my own childhood.
I ended up having nineteen children’s books published. Some of them were quite successful, others not so much. Rach one has special meaning to me and I am thankful for the opportunity of creating them all. Probably the least successful was The Lost Princess, by George McDonald, which I illustrated for Harvest House Publishers. I don’t think it sold more than 6,000 copies. It went out of print and that was that.
Until the day came when I received a letter from a principal of a school in New Jersey. She asked if I had any copies left? If so, could I please sign one and send it for their library, in the memory of one of their students who had died of cancer. It turns out that my version of The Lost Princess had been the favorite book of the girl who had died and her sister. Reading the book together was what had gotten them both through the most challenging time in their lives.
I signed the book and sent it. To this day, the feeling that I have, knowing my book is on that shelf and being read by many more students is one of the best feelings of my life. It impressed upon me that we don’t need to know or receive praise for everything we do. That principal didn’t need to write to me and I would have never known about the impact the book had made. I’m glad she did because it encouraged me that I was on a good path. It also let me know that there were probably countless people out there who had read my books and I would never hear from but who had benefited from them in many unique ways. That is a wonderful realization indeed.
Was that book a failure or a success? To me, it was the greatest success. How do you put a price tag on something like that? You can’t. No matter if it had only sold that one copy, it would have been worth it.
Success in the traditional sense of having more money and more possessions, a wrinkle free face or a more desirable body, these goals will satisfy for a moment, but will always leave a person chasing more. Real fulfillment and the deep peace and joy it brings, is about the simple, every day decisions we make in our minds and the simple, every day actions we take based on those decisions.
For myself, for example, instead of spending my time and energy on that book, I could have spent it on something destructive or wasteful–or just on watching Netflix or scrolling endlessly on my phone. Not that there is anything wrong with those things. I love to watch movies and TV series and scrolling on my phone. But all things in moderation, right?
We are given a certain amount of time on this planet and for whatever reason that we cannot comprehend, that’s how it is and we have no information really about how long that will be and why we are here and what it all means. So we must create our own purpose and meaning. And we decide what that will be each and every day. Because one of those days we will depart this planet and it’s what we leave behind in terms of the energy we choose to express that will last well beyond our physical presence. It’s that energy that will help sustain light in the darkness.
Like The Lost Princess, that light in the darkness will remain long after I am dust.