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On Stars and Dots and the Trouble with Both

On Stars and Dots and the Trouble with Both

I have three drafts of posts dealing with stars… 1.) A Review of The Little Prince movie, 2.) When Your Child Reaches for Stars (inspired by a conversation I had with my 5 year-old in which he told me he wants to be an astronaut. This one may not ever make it up here because it’s getting pretty long. It might be something to submit elsewhere.),  3.) This one. 

There’s apparently something in the stars besides lots of beauty. Stay tuned! 🙂

Now, onward to this one…

My kids and I recently checked out “You Are Special” by Max Lucado. This book has been around for almost ten years, and I’ve even read it a few times, but this last reading brought something new.

In case you don’t know, this book documents the life of the Wemmicks, wooden people made by the woodcarver Eli. The Wemmicks walk around giving each other stars (for noble actions, celebrated talents, etc.) and dots (for moronic/clumsy actions). Basically they go around judging each other all day. Does that sound familiar?

Punchinello is always given dots, all day, every day, but one day he meets a girl with no dots or stars and she tells Punchinello to go see Eli. He does, and Eli tells Punchinello that it doesn’t matter what others think, only what Eli thinks, and Eli thinks that Punchinello is special. Then, the dots start to fall off. “They only stick if you let them,” says Eli.

I have always read this book as a beautiful reminder that no matter what dumb, clumsy, unthoughtful actions we commit, God loves us and thinks we’re special.

But on this last reading I thought, “Oh, but what about the Wemmicks with stars?”

It is always nice to be admired. It’s nice to feel valued, talented, and loved by people. I know I like when humans tell me I’ve done a great job or that they like something I’ve said. But I really shouldn’t be looking to people for acceptance, in the same way I shouldn’t let their negativity affect me. God is always the one I should look to. When I participate in the world’s games, I might get some stars. But if I let those stars stick, I am allowing pride to enter my heart.

It is well and good to encourage and to be encouraged by people, but it is not good to find our ultimate value in people’s words.

Oh! Lovely Wemmicks, that all of you, whether puffed up by stars or shamed with dots, go to Eli! He will give you truth.

Now, I am brought to another story. This is a true story, one where I am the main character. It is set in the land of 7th grade.

Where I lived, 7th grade meant the start of junior high, a brand new school with higher expectations and greater opportunity for both success and failure. The school I attended was a brand new charter school. I had gone to K-6th grade with all the same people and I was always told the same things by them: “You are tall.” “You wear glasses.” “You are smart [meaning, you do your homework].” I was familiar with every one of my K-6th grade classmates, but 7th grade brought a whole new set of faces. Because of all these new people, new groups formed, friendship circles expanded. You probably know. Even if 7th grade wasn’t the start of junior high for you, I’m sure you’ve been faced with new people before, and you probably know all about being 12 years old.

It’s as if being completely new, physically, isn’t enough, but then they had to move us all around to a new school too. New. New. New. Everywhere. Though I was in the same changing part of life as everyone else, I slotted right into the same position I had always taken. “You are tall.” “You wear glasses.” “You are smart.” In other words, I let the dots stick.

I realize that being tall, wearing glasses, and being smart doesn’t sound that bad. And it wasn’t really. The only bad part about it was that I was a lot more than those three things, and I like to think that I still am. But I was shy and quiet, so people (especially my fellow 12 year-olds) felt they could label me because that’s what you do in junior high.

I wasn’t necessarily an outcast. I had friends. I had fun. I survived. But I always kind of sat back and looked at the popular kids.

Popular was a real thing in 7th grade. These were the people everyone saw. Everyone knew their names. Everyone labeled them just like everyone labeled me and everyone else. But now I realize that the popular people weren’t really the coolest people. They were just the loudest, the ones who felt they had to perform so that they could get stars.

Oh! Lovely Wemmicks!

One day, I was standing in gym class, lined up for a relay. Hair up. Back of my line (I was tall, with a last name sort of toward the end of the alphabet, so I was always in the back). Baggy blue shorts. Grey school-authorized tee shirt. Florescent lights. I stood there in all my lanky glory, dreading the moment when everyone would look at me. I would likely fall in the middle of my jumping jacks and everyone would give me dots.

Or was I just perceiving dots?

Anyway, a boy in line next to me looked over. He was one of the popular kids. Always surrounded by girls and jocks. He had never spoken to me before. Then he said, “You are beautiful.” And I said nothing.

I didn’t know how to respond. It was like I felt worse because he said that. It was like I had let people’s words affect me for so long, and I tried to be the person who looked cool on the outside, just shaking off rude and ignorant words, but actually the dots never fell off. It was like they were seeping into my insides, so that when a popular boy said something nice, I thought he was giving me another dot.

He wasn’t giving me a dot, but that is what I saw.

All this to say, I think we all go through dot days, and we all go through star days, but either way we’re wrong if we let them stick.

Oh! That the Wemmicks with stars and the Wemmicks with dots would all return to Eli. That they would all leave their prideful, talented, or downcast selves and find their acceptance in truth.

Whether I display dots or stars or worms or butterflies or just plain dead, hard-heartedness, let my little wooden self go to Eli to reason it all out.

Because,

FLASH

Dots and stars are both sin, and both try to take me over every day. There is no reason to let them. Really, there is only reason to go.