Becoming Real: 40 Days with the Velveteen Rabbit
Day 23 – Monday after Mothering Sunday – 15th March2010
The strange rabbit stopped dancing, and came quite close. He came so close this time that his long whiskers brushed the Velveteen Rabbit’s ear, and then he wrinkled his nose suddenly and flattened his ears and jumped backwards.
“He doesn’t smell right!” he exclaimed. “He isn’t a rabbit at all! He isn’t real!”
“I amReal!” said the little Rabbit. “I am Real! The Boy said so!” And he nearly began to cry.
from The Velveteen Rabbit
by Margery Williams
I once worked with an archdeacon whose first impression of the state of a parish’s health was measured by his sense of smell! You see he enjoyed the use of incense in worship – it’s aroma in a church building in midweek assured him that the church was not just used on Sundays. His nose was also used to ‘sniff out’ other less savoury fragrances which haunt church buildings. Well, after all, Archdeacons do spend a considerable amount of time poking around drains and gutters!
The sense of smell does enable us, in so many different ways, to determine if something is ‘right’ or even ‘real’. It assures us that all is well and healthy. When food has gone rotten it’s bad smell is a life saver. We attach meaning to smells. Some things smell of home, another of school, or of grandmother’s house. Each smell can bring with it memories, pleasant or unpleasant, leading us to act in different ways.
Our little rabbit doesn’t ‘smell right’ and because his smell is not the smell of the wild rabbit he is proclaimed to be a non-rabbit and ‘not real at all’. How it must have shocked our friend and it is little wonder that he was almost moved to tears. I wonder if he had cried whether that would have made him any more ‘real’ to the wild rabbit? Sadly, I think not.
I remember the deep embarrassment of a family at a church service when a long lost aunt arrived unexpectedly. This was someone who did not ‘smell’ the same as everyone else. Her presence made it difficult for things to proceed comfortably. Amidst apologies after the event I hope I helped matters by reminding the rest of the family that, regardless of smell, their aunt had come to church and that was – however awkward and embarrassing – something for which to be thankful. Though Aunty knew she was not the most welcome person there, she still came and tried to demonstrate love.
Think of those who are excluded from things because they don’t ‘smell right’ are declared to be ‘not real’ and seem unable to fit in.
Examine your heart and, if you have excluded another because they don’t ‘fit in’ find a way to welcome them.
If you have found yourself excluded from the circle of the church’s fellowship by the judgement of others try to forgive them.
This I know is a difficult task but a holy one as well.
Remember that nothing, least of all the thoughtless words of another, can ever separate us from the reality of the love of God.
Increase the capacity of my heart.
Take its edges and stretch them out
To include all in me that I do not love,
All in my family that I judge,
All in my Church that I fear,
And all in the world that doesn’t fit.
© Andrew Dotchin – 2018