When I was a girl, it was Dotty and Topo and the Chocolate Pizza Factory.
In her toddler years, Sici talked at length with pint-sized Sir — the one with springs for feet — and welcomed The Soccer Teamers into the house for dinner after they arrived on their scooters.
For J it was Peela, Pola and Ponot who graced us with their presence on walks, at bedtime and around the dining room table.
These friends weren’t imaginary, of course. They were real. So when we sat on them, they felt the pain. And when they faded into the memories of childhood, so did I.
I’ve been thinking lots about all kinds of manifestations of imagination since April, when at the Faith and Culture Writers Conference, Ken Wytsma, founder of the Justice Conference, spoke about the importance of imagination — and immersion into literature — as part of the key to unlocking empathy in children. Because when they are able to place themselves in the experience of another and truly imagine that pain and joy, they are better able to extend that to the world beyond the page, beyond the right here.
And do something with those feelings.
As I look ahead to this weekend, I’m thinking about my Sici, now 11 (and a voracious reader), who is a part of a group of Sunday School kids who heard about their teachers’ experience in the Congo and wanted to do something to help the children of that faraway place. While adults might have shied away from the logistics of ticket sales and meal preparation and a Saturday night program, the kids jumped in full of excitement and are bringing the dream of helping children in a faraway orphanage to life.
Sunday, on the heels of her fifth grade group presentation this week about the need for clean water worldwide, Sici and I will be walking with two friends and their mamas, holding heavy buckets of water to understand just a little better the lengths to which people go to access drinking water and to help put clean water within their reach.
I’m beginning to see these kids and my girl’s empathy like hearts with feet on them. They might even have springs.