Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch
At the Bookworm Literacy booth during Love Hughson, my 8-year-old, at my strong encouraging, selected “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson. One character, the Finn Woman tells her reindeer, “I can give her no greater power than she has already,” said the woman; “don’t you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart.”
My daughter asks me, “it ‘The Snow Queen’ real?” She is very concerned with the line between the real and the unreal.
“No, but even though the things in it did not happen, it teaches us lessons that are true,” I answer.
“Barefooted though she is,” the Finn woman described the girl. Gerda, the child protagonist, owns a pair of red shoes which she offers first to the river, thinking the friend for whom she searches is drowned. Her barefootedness comes out of sacrifice.
Later she is given warm boots and removed them when she entered a warm house. Leaving in haste, she is mounted on the aforementioned reindeer, forgetting her boots.
Her barefootedness comes from the simple forgetfulness of a child. Even in the rain, my children can still manage to climb out of the van barefoot. Their eagerness is their virtue, though not yet tempered by the prudence and careful planning of age.
Barefoot though we are, we all go forth to do what we can. What drives the barefooted person forward? Connection. Relationship. A sense that I am not alone in the world if I can do one thing to help another.
In towns and communities where volunteering is commonplace, where many an event provides many an opportunity, where schools require students to earn citizenship points, it can be easy to reduce the motivation to, “I want to help the community.”
Gerda might have said the same of her friend. Why would she travel the cold world over, meeting strangers and risking adventures?
She might have said, “Because I love him.” Believing him alive, she will not give up so long as there was a need.
Gerda and her friend, Kay lived next to each other. Their windows faced each other and they played together. She watched his personality change and then he disappeared. She noticed.
She noticed and she acted, even if her actions could change nothing. Her connection to him, his presence in her life, her love for him, moved her to act.
Fairytales are useful things when they simplify nature. It is true we are all complicated sorts, but why not condense our complication to barefootedness? Then we can see the effect of good in terrible situations.
Her goodness inspires others to help her. She begins the mission, she persists in the mission, even though she endures suffering. Because of the purity of her intention, others help her along the way.
There are leaders among us in our community. They see the need; they begin the mission. Barefoot though they are, they move forward, and that inspires others to join in. I might not have noticed the need in this insulated life, but the gofundme page, the Love Hughson website, the signs about town, wake me up a little.
The best leaders bring others and their ideas together. Project leaders bring their skills, their ideas seen in the windows that face their own and connections that make them care in a special way about that project. Then others join in.
And thus, we help the community.