Monday, December 24, 2012

Let it Snow! - A Children's Story


I wrote this story as a children's picture book idea a few years ago. I still like it so I wanted to share it. Maybe read it to your kids if you got 'em. They've got powerful imaginations, I don't think they need the pictures anyway. Merry Christmas.



Let it Snow!
A Children’s Christmas Story
By William Sterling  



“Snow!” Shouted young Jacob Price. “A full day of snow would be ever so nice!” He kicked and screamed and let out a sigh, “Please make it snow,” he shouted toward the sky. “There’s a certain someone responsible!” He exclaimed. “He’s likely asleep on the job, what a bother, what a pain! Give me snow now for goodness sake; do you want me to spread rumors that I think you’re a fake?” The sun was setting, and it was getting dark. “There had better be snow tomorrow,” was Jacob’s last remark.
     Off to bed he went, ready for snow in the morn. He even dressed accordingly his hat, coat and scarf well worn. He closed his eyes tight, and prepared for sleep, when suddenly he heard a rumble and from his bed he did leap. He kicked off his sheets, to the window he ran, his eyes growing wide as a blizzard began.
     There was snow! More than just a flurry, so much of it so that Jacob began to worry! To his front door he opened wide, yet what he received was a terrible surprise. In poured snow, in leaps and bounds, more of it, more of it, he feared he may drown. He ran up his stairs, as the snow filled his home, where were his parents, why was he all alone?
     The walls began to shake, the windows to brake, the snow was flooding his house and he needed to escape. He ran to the attic, it was really quite clear, “I’ll escape from the roof, I’ll escape from up here!” He opened the window and out he ran, he was beginning to worry, he hadn’t a plan. “This is not what I wanted, this was not my boast, my house is being buried by the thing I want most! This snow is so bitter, so cold and so frigid, I should have asked for something warm, something nice, bright, and vidid.”
     Jacob seemed hopeless, as if all was lost. His wish seemingly twisted by a scheming Jack Frost. But suddenly, a light shown bright! It was red like a beacon, an Angel's guiding light. Against the fearful snow it did oppose. What was it; but Rudolph’s shiny red nose. Closer and closer came the sleigh and Santa Claus along with it in a marvelous display.
     “Santa!” Jacob shouted with glee. “I knew you’d come, you must save me!” Down landed Santa, his reindeer so beautiful. He stepped down from his sleigh, with a purpose quite dutiful.
     “My, my,” He began to say. “Look at all this snow, look at this foray.” He gazed about and stroked his beard, it did not look good, it was what he feared.
     “Santa, I don’t know where to go! My home is back there buried beneath the snow.” Jacob began to shiver; the cold was all he felt. But Santa simply looked to him and down he knelt. “Perhaps there’s something we can do, we'll figure this out. We can find an answer, this I know without a doubt.”
     “Oh Santa, there’s not much I could achieve, I got us into this mess, and I’ve no tricks up my sleeve.” Santa just smiled his cheeks so rosy, he lent Jacob his hat, it was quite cozy. He scratched his bald head, and thought for a second. He snapped his fingers, “I’ve got it!” He reckoned.
     He leapt onto his sleigh, Jacob in tow. “Now hold on tight, we’ll show this snow!” With those words, Santa’s sleigh began to rise, “We can save Christmas,” Santa surmised.
     Faster and faster they flew, far above the clouds; the towns below all covered in snow shrouds. “Santa, what can I do to make things right? People must be stuck in their homes, stricken with fright. I've been so selfish, so thoughtless and greedy, I did a terrible by ignoring the needy. I and my wishes got us into this mess, I’m afraid this year I’ve spoiled Christmas.”
     Santa slowly looked over, smiling from ear to ear. “Christmas is not spoiled, no sir, not this year! You’ve solved the problem, Jacob, you’ve figured it out! This snow is thick, but your conscience it did not clout. This unfortunate situation you’ve helped amend, you’ve realized something it takes some a lifetime to comprehend. We can dream as far as the stars are in the night. They are hope for tomorrow, they let our future take flight. But sometimes what we wish for is meant only for us, and this can cause problems, situations such as thus.”
     Jacob looked up to Santa, his suit bright and red, and he wished he was home, asleep in his bed. “Santa, I’d like to go home now, if you don’t mind. I’d like to fall asleep, and leave this all behind. This was an interesting day for me and you; I guess I should be careful what I wish for, it just might come true.”
     Down went the sleigh, Jacob could see his house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The snow was thin, it had finally subsided, Jacob felt better now that he’d confided. Santa smiled, leaned down and gave him a hug, then shouted to his reindeer who lifted off with a tug.
     Jacob went inside, and crawled into bed. “To think,” To himself he softly said. “In the morning, what a story I will tell when I awake. And before all this, I threatened to call him a fake.”

Monday, December 17, 2012

Now Can We Talk About Love?

Words cannot describe our reactions to the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut Friday. And no words will ever be enough to comfort those who have lost loved ones. At this moment, and for the many to follow, the best we can do for those in need is be there for them. After a tragedy strikes our initial reaction is a desire to have the right words to make it all okay again. Sometimes we appreciate the sentiment, sometimes it offends us, and sometimes we'd rather just have silence and a hug. Everyone deals with these things differently. It's impossible to predict anything here, where comfort ends and heartbreak begins, but it is always vividly clear to me that no matter the instance there is always one thing we can do to let the suffering know that they are not alone in their darkest hour.

Now can we talk about love?

On all social media platforms there was an immediate and resounding demand to discuss gun control. I can't count the amount of posts I saw within minutes of learning of the news that said, "Now can we talk about gun control?"

No. We can't. Not, at least, just seconds after the lives of twenty children and six adults have been lost. To be honest, for a little while, I don't want to hear to word "gun". I don't want to hear or talk about politics, policies, or Religion. I just want to keep quiet for a moment and show those around me how much I love them. After something as terrifying as this, I don't want to talk about anything.

Yet in the days that follow, the conversation is inevitable. Now, the Monday after, can we talk about gun control? Sure. It's not like we can stop you. And it may be an important issue. But why, in the initial moments of what seems like the end of the world, is our first thought to discuss weapons? I saw a lot of people beautiful things, say a prayer or a good word, trying to help those of us who didn't know how to deal. I saw a lot of arguments about whether or not God existed, how he could allow a tragedy such a this, how if he weren't taken out of school maybe this wouldn't have happened, the copious posts about gun control, and then Sunday night, when the President's remarks interrupted a football game, I saw an astounding number of racial slurs, swear words, and bigotry demanding that the President stop interrupting their game because, God damn it, they wanted to watch some football.

Well, football can wait. Talk of gun control can wait. Arguments about the existence of God can wait. But we cannot, then, now, nor ever wait to love. Love mustn't wait. But it is clear to me that it often does. People are more inclined to erupt into an argument about trivialities than they are to say nothing for a moment and simply show someone that they are loved.

The time to discuss gun control, science, and God will arrive. Give it time. It is inevitable. But is that time mere moments after such a substantial loss of life? I saw a lot of love that day. This isn't an accusation on my part to the rest of the world for being callous. It's a statement to suggest that maybe we're in need of some conditioning. Imagine a world where love reigns supreme? True unconditional love that erupts when the world is in need. That instead of hoping to talk about guns, God, and football, we say nothing at all and let our actions speak for themselves. Is that such an outrageous idea? How selfish are we that the first thing coming to mind is beginning a dialogue or diatribe about the issues we think should be discussed. Maybe you don't have all the answers. Maybe it isn't time to talk about gun control. Maybe it isn't time to talk about what you think we should talk about. Maybe, for once, this isn't about you.

In moments such as these, the only thing we can do to effectively help the suffering is to completely let go of ourselves. Everyone deals with tragedy in their own way and that's okay. It's okay to try to have the magic words because our heart breaks for the brokenhearted, but the most important thing is, no matter what you do or say, if it comes from a place of love it will never lead you astray. Let love speak for itself and speak for you. We like to point to anything and everything as being the cause of our problems, but most often it is a severe lack of love. All things can be traced back to love, either an abundance or an absence of it. Imagine if we put as much hard work into teaching one another how to love as we do trying to teach people to believe in their right to own or not own a gun. If we worked as hard to encourage people to love unconditionally as some people do to prove how God apparently loves conditionally. Dream of living in a time where instead of arguing about politics we encouraged our ability to see eye to eye. Think of the possibilities if we were as dedicated to one another as we are to our favorite sports teams, if just as much were at stake when we lost one of our brothers or sisters as it is when our team suffers a loss.

Without love, all things are irrelevant. And with love all things are possible. But we've got to start working love into our national discourse. We're already talking about everything else. People like to think it's cute, as if love were a fairy tale, that when people preach about it, it's uninformed, juvenile, and unaware of how the world really works. People in places of power like to condescend to pacifists as if all of them were children. But some of us are aware of how the world works, and contrary to popular belief what makes it go round isn't gravity, but love. It's time to come back to what really matters. We've talked about guns. We've talked about God. We've talked about politics, science, and football.

Now can we talk about love?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Believe

A very good friend to many passed away recently. In the brief time I knew him I watched myself change as both an actor and a human being because of him, his words, his spirit, and his belief in me and my potential. These sentiments are dedicated to him. You never know how much someone can affect you in such a brief period of time until you reflect on how they've helped you. Sometimes you wonder if it's possible to fall in love with someone at first meeting. He was the kind of guy to remind you just how possible, and often simple, that is.


Do you know what it's like to believe in something? Given the Holiday season, Santa Claus and Jesus are usually the two names that first come to mind when we think of "believing". Mostly because they're written in lights, decorating lawns, church parking lots, and rooftops. Nativity scenes and depictions of the North Pole have come to define what it means to "believe" at Christmas time. Somewhere in time the meaning of the word shifted and it became something almost mystical. When people ask you, "Do you believe?" there's a great weight attached. It has become synonymous, for many folks, with things that may be working beyond our understanding. And though this element to belief is incredibly vital, there is a large portion of what it means to believe that is neglected this time of year. And that is believing in your fellow man.

We've spent a lot of time believing in people who are not physically present because we've been told that we should. As if Saint Nicholas began his gift giving work because he wanted people to believe in him. But that couldn't be further from the truth. The man set out to give gifts to those in need, to spread the word about peace on earth and good will toward men not because he wanted people to believe in him, but because he believed in them. It's only because people, in our greatest times of need, choose to believe in someone who seems much grander than us that he transforms into a legend. Because we needed him to be a saint, because we needed something to believe in, he became as such. But the mission was never to establish worship, rather it was to give hope. Saint Nicholas, or Santa, set out on a mission to bring people joy, cheer, and hope. Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for food on your table, a roof over your head, and clothes on your back. Hope that, if nothing else, we could be happy.

Considering the amount of time we focus on believing in the seemingly unbelievable, a more important question looms: do you know what it's like to feel believed in? I mean with complete and utter unequivocation, have you truly felt from another human being that they believed in you? In all that you were and all that you could be, beyond all other things they believed that who you were to become was going to be something great. They had great hope for you, great love for you. And for many of us, it's important to believe in the things we cannot see; in things of the spirit and of the heart because it makes us faithful and gives us hope that, despite terrible odds, despite some days being dark and cold, a sun rise awaits; that there are silver linings to those clouds. Over time we learn that seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing. But belief cannot and does not stop here.

Even if you feel you believe in something or someone, how many of us can honestly say that we believe in ourselves? If you don't believe in who you are, you aren't much at all. That's not to say you won't become something but it means that at that moment in time, when you're not believing in yourself, you may feel alone. And it takes someone from the outside to believe in you, to have faith in you, to remind you what you're capable of. It's become incredibly clear that believing in someone you barely even know can make all the difference in the world. But it's difficult to find the confidence to stand and say you truly believe in you. It doesn't come easily and it doesn't come on your own. It works much like love, because it takes love to truly believe in others.

Before you can believe in others you must first believe in yourself. But before you can believe in yourself someone must have believed in you. And love is much the same. Before you can truly love others you must know how to love yourself, but the only way to love yourself is to know what it means to be loved. When someone else believes in you that gives you the confidence to leap over the hurdles life throws at you. Our confidence must come from somewhere, our desire to succeed has to start somewhere. Those who put their faith in you and believed that you are so much more than you give yourself credit for are the ones who help drive you to success. If there is a goal to be reached or an obstacle to overcome, do you truly feel you can do it on your own? Without the help or consolation of others? Even if you view yourself as a soloist, as one who accomplishes all things by your own volition, you're giving yourself too much credit. You have been built up as a confident someone because others, throughout your life, have inspired you, influenced your belief system and helped mold the person you are today. You just haven't considered all the people in your life who have done so. But they're there, I promise.

So perhaps this Holiday season we should strive to put a balance not so much on how we believe, but who and what we believe in. Just as much as it is important for us to believe in the spirit of the season, in the miracles that help us see the light in the darkness, we should also look to our neighbors and, with all of our hearts, believe in them. You never know when that person you meet may be struggling just to tread water and your faith in them, your love for that person, could be what changes their life. Believing in someone else means you're helping them learn to believe in themselves, and when they do the cycle continues. Greater than any gift under the tree or in the stocking is the gift of belief. To believe is truly a blessing. It takes great faith and at times risk. You must risk yourself and give yourself completely to another in order to help them to their feet. Not all of us are ready to stand, but all of us can. And you'll never know just how tall you can stand until you know what it feels like to believe in yourself and your ability to pick yourself up by the helping hand of another.

I am lucky enough to have lived a life filled with folks who have believed in me. People are always asking one another, "Do you believe in God?" as if to find out how to classify them according to their belief system. But why aren't we simply stating, "God believes in you." Whatever that "God" is that you believe in, it is clear that there is an energy of love that courses through our veins and it comes from something that believes in each and every one of us. We all share that very same love. It binds us to each other if we're willing to let it. And if you're willing to acknowledge it, it will help show you that more than it means to believe in something at Christmas is what it means to believe in your fellow man all year through. When you do, you're helping that person become aware not just of who they are, but who they can be, of their infinite potential for goodness and love.

We're all capable of wonderful things, of changing the world and making a stand. But before we can do any of those things we have to do something quite simple. Believe.