Story: “The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm” by LeVar Burton (Author), Susan Schaefer Bernardo (Author), Courtenay Fletcher (Author, Illustrator)
Reflections Part I by Sarah Quigg
In our story, both Mica and the Rhino are both facing something big and scary, which is threatening to take away things that are important to them. It may be hard to relate to finding the inner strength to deal with something so big, but it’s probably a safe bet to say almost all of us have suffered a loss or disappointment of some sort in our lives. Maybe we’ve studied really hard for a test but still received a failing grade. Maybe we’ve tried out for a team we really wanted to be on but failed to make the cut. Or it could be as simple as being left out when we desperately want is to fit in.
A few weeks ago, a member of our congregation lifted up her neighbor’s daughter during joys and sorrows; she’s a freshman at a small college in a rural area far from home, and she attempted the process of joining a sorority, only to be rejected by all of them. This story brought me right back to my freshman year of college when the exact same thing happened to me. If you’ve never experienced rushing a sorority, it’s a process where you attend a series of parties, and at the end of the week, you hope to get an invitation to join one of the houses. I went through this with a group of my close friends, including my roommate, all of whom got an invitation except me. After the selection process, the campus seemingly erupted into a non-stop, six-week-long party as the pledging process started, and I felt immensely alone. Suddenly, my friends weren’t available to do fun things on the weekends, they were too busy with their new sisters. And if I’m being honest, they weren’t that interested in making time for me, leaving me feeling doubly rejected.
We call the thing that pulls us out of these kinds of disappointments resilience. Resilience is an interesting virtue, with ample evidence of the value we place on it with sayings like “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” and “put on your big-girl pants.” And people who are resilient are often spoken of favorably, with sayings like they “bend, but don’t break,” and “roll with the punches.” We like resilience, both in ourselves and others, but it’s not a virtue we want to need or build. Struggling with something difficult can often leave you feeling all alone, which makes overcoming the challenge that much harder. The Rhino feels alone, thinking he needs to swallow the storm all by himself. We feel left out when friends make a team and we don’t. When we fail a test or struggle with a class, we can convince ourselves that we’re the only one finding it difficult. This can lead to us feeling like failures – these bad things wouldn’t happen if we were smarter, or faster, or funnier, or stronger.
When bad things happen, we almost always discover that we really aren’t alone. The Rhino is not alone; the other animals show up to support him. Mica is not alone, her family is there to support her and help her be less afraid. After wallowing in my disappointment for a few days, I learned I wasn’t alone either. Acquaintances who had previously hovered on the outside of my circle of friends, who for one reason or another weren’t participating in the Greek system either, soon became better friends – friends I still value to this day. But the step between our feelings of loneliness and disappointment, and the people who are there to lift us up, can only be taken by us. A common trope in addiction recovery is that you can’t help a person until they are ready to help themselves. There is a space between our loss and loneliness, and the people who are ready to help, and when we step into this space, resilience is born. And resilience can become the push to try again – pick up our notes or get extra help and prepare for the next test. It can also be what propels us to try something new – not making the team might inspire us to try a new sport or activity we end up liking even better.
These examples are small compared to bigger losses people too often face: losing a home, the death of a loved one, poverty. But in acknowledging our small losses and learning to overcome them, we build the resilience we need to overcome bigger challenges and help others do the same.
Reflections Part II by Lara Profitt, DRE
In our story, the Rhino had friends to support him. Whale, kangaroo, spider, and the rest were able to be there for rhino and offer advice to help him let go of the storm. We all need those types of friends and we all need to be that type of friend. How do we do that though? Different communities and cultures have different ways of providing support and encouragement for their members. I grew up in Appalachia and there, the way to show your support during hard times was food. In the hospital? People would bring you food. Someone died? Table full of food. Holiday? Gifts of food. Birth of a baby? Meals for weeks. As an adult, my first impulse when someone is sick, sad, or tired is to bring them food. To me, support is taking care of basic needs so that those who are in need of help can focus on other things. Sometimes this surprises people, sometimes they accept, and sometimes they say “no” but I always feel the need to provide food.
Sometimes being a supportive friend doesn’t mean giving something material. Have you ever read the book “Have You Filled a Bucket Today”? This children’s book was written as a way to describe and illustrate, for adults and children, the way that negative words and deeds impact a person’s emotional health.
To describe the book briefly: think of every person as being born with an invisible bucket. The bucket represents a person’s mental and emotional health. You can’t see the bucket, but it’s there. The author states that it is primarily the responsibility of parents and other caregivers to fill a child’s bucket. When you hold, caress, nurture, touch, sing, play, and provide loving attention, safety, and care, you fill a child’s bucket. Giving that love is filling buckets. In addition to being loved, children must also be shown and encouraged how to love others. Children who learn how to express kindness and love lead happier lives. When you care about others and show that love by what you say and do, you feel good and you fill your own bucket, too.
When we think of helping others be resilient, we can think of it as filling their bucket. Many things can fill a bucket; listening, offering a hug, providing food, running errands, sitting quietly and providing company, sending a supportive card. These can work for adults and children. In the story, Rhino’s friends provided advice. However, we don’t have to provide advice or have the “right” words for every situation. If you don’t know what to do: ask! Saying “how can I help?” or offering specific actions like “can I get you some water?” or “can I pick up your kids?” are all bucket-filling.
Let’s think about one more literary character: Eeyore. Poor Eeyore. He is usually sad. Something is always wrong. The interesting thing about the other characters in Winne the Pooh stories is that….they always include Eeyore. I’m going to guess that Eeyore isn’t always the best or most exciting company. However, his friends and accept him as he is, rain cloud and all. Sometimes being part of a community is just remembering to include everyone. Filling a bucket can mean checking on the friend who neve
r really wants to do anything. It means not giving up on someone even if it seems like it is taking a long time for them to recover. The next time you need help: look for
helpers all around you. Ask for help and accept help. Our resilience isn’t formed in isolation…it requires others. Remember to be the “others” as well…lend a hand or an ear. Being part of the greater web that binds us all together despite our diversity and differences requires both giving and taking as necessary.