White-Washing and The Lone Ranger: An excessively long facebook comment

As you may know, recently, Disney and director Gore Verbinski released a reimagining of the classic radio series, The Lone Ranger, starring Armie Hammer as the titular character and Johnny Depp as the “sidekick”, Tonto. I was, upon first hearing of its upcoming release a few months ago, relatively excited. A western starring Johnny Depp. Sounds cool. I liked Rango. But upon closer inspection, the movie really began to fall apart for me. In the following paragraphs, I explain why.

(Note: This was in response to an article my mom shared to my facebook wall. The article in question can be found here. The articles from which I drew my information are here and here, the artist’s “about me” page is here, and the painting can be found here)


First of all, I wouldn’t NECESSARILY call this portrayal racist. My first instinct is that yes, this is racism and therefore gross, BUT having read the article you posted, I’d say it’s more culturally insensitive than anything. Clearly, Depp is sincere when he says he’s trying to do something good for the Native American people, “trying” being the key word.

The problems here are as follows: Johnny Depp is not Native American. He supposedly has some Cherokee blood, but the character Tonto is a full-blooded Potawatomi. Depp is not. He’s a white guy. This is called white-washing, and is not okay for a few very big reasons. One, because Johnny is predominantly white, he cannot have full insight into the trials faced by the Powatomi people (or any Native American people for that matter). He is trying to “save” the character from a history of misrepresentation and racist stereotyping, to bring light to the subject of the Native American people’s suffering — but the story he’s trying to tell here is not his. He is not intimately connected with the culture of the Powatomi people and so cannot realize the full cultural value of their traditions and rituals because they are not his. He is not personally hurt (hurt on their behalf, almost certainly — sympathy is not constrained to one culture) by the sufferings they have faced because they are not his sufferings.

For another thing, Tonto is a PRIME example of the underrepresentation of Native American people in Western media. I cannot think of ONE Native American character who is portrayed as an actual person rather than a stereotype based on sensationalism and paranoia. Of these portrayals, Tonto is probably the most famous. The problem here is that, when a character is Native American in a way that matters, where it is an integral part of the character’s life and family and way of doing things, it is over-exaggerated, stereotyped, and reduced to dancing wildly around fires and speaking in broken English and SOMETIMES they have SPIRIT ANIMALS because it’s MYSTICAL. There are no famous, popular, mainstream portrayals of Native American people living as actual people who follow their own traditions just like everyone else does, the traditions being unique to them but the act of following them being universal. Native Americans are not treated as people. And the one time they attempt to portray one as a person (whether or not they succeed is… questionable) they cast, rather than a Native American, a white person. If a Native American man wants to play a character who is Native American in a way beyond skin-color, he must play a stereotype. If a white director is going to cast a character who is Native American in a way beyond skin-color who is more than a stereotype, he’s going to… cast a white guy??? Why? What kind of sense is that supposed to make?

Now we look at the costuming. At first, everyone was just annoyed because the costume looks very similar to the Jack Sparrow outfit. However, Depp has stated that his costume was inspired by a painting of a “Native American” man that really spoke to him. That’s a little more understandable. But upon doing some research into the painting (I Am Crow, by Kirby Sattler) we find that the artist is… white. “Without personal history”, who “does not denote tribal affiliation” and wants to “satisfy his audience’s sensibilities of the subject without the constraints of having to adhere to historical accuracy”.



More sensationalism and stereotypes without any sensitivity to culture or history created by a white guy?

Huh. Sounds familiar.

Tonto’s costume is in no way connected to any Native American tribe — certainly not the Powatomi tribe. I mean, honestly, a stuffed crow on his head. What. Consequently, Tonto is entirely disconnected from actual Native American cultures and history. He cannot represent them accurately because he himself is not represented accurately.

As a white person with no Native American blood whatsoever, I understand and appreciate that white people (generally) feel bad and want to make things better. We WANT to be respectful and tell the stories right. But they’re not our stories to tell. And by using white directors, white actors, white artists, we are MAKING them ours (white people taking things from non-white peoples — also sounds familiar) and, with the best of intentions, twisting and convoluting them until, once again, they are nothing more than stereotypes.

And an entire race of people with multiple tribes and cultures and ways of living continues to go unrepresented and unappreciated. And that’s just really not okay.


Below this, I went on to gripe (with a sudden loss of grammar skills) about the artist and his need to sensationalize Native American culture, rather than just paint the real thing, because, you know, clearly, entire tribes and families and traditions that are completely different from our own and have existed for hundreds and hundreds of years are just really not fascinating or beautiful or mystical enough to be interpreted artistically. No, you have to turn it into a sensationalist fantasy world that pales in comparison to the deep well of the actual thing. Brilliance.



Um, for the record (just putting this out there because it’s been on my mind lately) if you’ve ever been abused — whether emotionally, physically, verbally, sexually — and/or if you’ve been raped, it is NEVER your fault. I don’t care how you were dressed, or what you were drinking, or what bad decisions you’d been making behind closed doors. It is NOT your fault, EVER. It is ALWAYS the perpetrator’s fault, and NEVER the victim’s. I’m just very tired of hearing stories of people who were raped or abused and were afraid to tell anyone because they were called “slut” or told that “they deserved it”. NO. YOU DID NOT. NOBODY deserves that, EVER, NO MATTER WHAT they did. THE END.

This goes for men and women alike. I mean it. If someone has hurt you this way, YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME.

And to everyone who is blessed enough to have not been abused in these ways, can we PLEASE stop blaming the victims. Please. Let’s not teach our girls how to avoid rape, but instead teach our boys to JUST NOT RAPE. I think that would be much more effective, since how a girl (or boy) dresses actually has nothing to do with whether or not she gets raped, and whether or not a boy (or girl) decides to rape someone else has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that they think everyone else will blame the victim.

Also, let’s talk about this argument: “You wouldn’t put meat on a hook in front of a shark and expect him not to eat it.”

Well, here’s the thing (and this may come as a shock to you): men are not sharks. They are men. In making this argument you liken men to nothing more than blood-thirsty, instinct-driven animals who are incapable of controlling themselves or making the choice to simply walk past a scantily clad woman. And if that’s what you are, then why the heck have we entrusted the vast majority of this planet’s governments to you?! I don’t want to live in a world lead by animals!

This is not me lobbying for a feminist-rule thing here. I have no problem living in a country lead by  a man who respects his wife and daughters enough to see them as something more than food, anymore than I would have a problem living in a country lead by a woman who shows the same respect towards her husband (or wife, as the case may be). But if all men are basically sharks, and all women are basically meat, we need to get the sharks out of power as soon as possible or myself and my fellow turkey dinners are screwed.

Do you see why the argument doesn’t work? Because I do, and I am beyond sick of hearing it.

So let’s just stop. Stop blaming the victims. There is nothing more to it. Blame the abuser, not the abused. The end, that’s all, goodbye.

This was meant to be a shorter post than it ended up being. Oh well.

This Is Your Map

Open your eyes.

The world around you is unfamiliar to you. There is sand beneath your feet and a blue sky above your head, but there is no sun. The wind seems to sigh against your arms and legs, rippling the sand into small, dusty tornadoes that fall silently to the ground as an army of thin white clouds slides its way across the sky. Aside from the wind, there is no sound. You breathe with the wind. In… out.

It isn’t hot, but it isn’t cold. There seems to be no temperature at all. It isn’t… wrong, but you don’t quite like it. Look around. There is a dark mass in the distance, just upon the horizon. Head in that direction.

Your feet make no noise as they pad across the sand. The wind seems to whisper words you can’t make out, as if you have walked past a room and heard an adult say your name and you don’t know what he is saying about you. You wish he would stop. Don’t let it bother you. Keep walking.

The sand shifts a few yards away, and a figure rises noiselessly from the earth. He is small, round in the middle, dressed all in yellow and red, a striking combination against the brown sand. His hair is scarlet and sticks out inches from his temples, leaving his scalp shiny and pure white, like his face. He wears a painted smile. Do not look at him. Whatever you do.

You can feel him eyeing the back of your neck as you press on. Do not look at him. Do not.

As you walk, more little piles erupt and all manner of strange creatures make their way past you. It is okay to look at the girl with the balloon who slips past you in a daze — only remember not to be startled when you realize that she is not walking, but being lead two or three inches off the ground by her balloon. It is okay to look at the monkeys. Avoid eye contact with the chameleons — they are paranoid and will think you are watching them. It is okay to look at the dogs, but do not ask them to play — they will be loyal friends, but they are too loud, and you don’t want people looking at you. Under no circumstances should you look at the lady in the red gown. If you see a cat, make friends with it. You can always trust the cats.

There are people all around you now — fish leap from the sand and dive back in, their scales glittering; dogs trot past, tails wagging; a strange man in a black suit with a half-painted face strides past, his knees reaching his collarbone with every step; a boy paddles his boat through the sand, a kite streaming from the aft; cats walk upon the air at your eye level, their backs arched and their eyes hooded, bored — but still, there is no sound but the breath of the wind. You breathe with it, only to realize that everyone around you is doing the same. In… out.

“It’s probably best if you breathe to your own rhythm,” purrs a tabby from two feet above your head. “It’s what I always do.”

Trust the cats. Change your breathing pace. Do not listen to the wind. Do not look at the clown, though you can still feel his gaze pricking your spine. Keep walking. You are almost there.

It is a forest, you can see now. A small forest. A very still forest. The leaves are green, but there are strange markings on them. Checkerboards and swirls and letters from some long-dead language you’ve never heard of before. You venture a few yards inside. It is dark, and silent. An old woman sits huddled beneath a tree, her wrinkled hand outstretched, palm up, fingers curled in a claw. You have a feeling she speaks the language.

“Spare any food for a dying old woman, good Knight?” she croaks.

There are Cheez-its in your pocket.

“I’d give her what you have,” says the black cat that followed you here. “An old woman is a pleasant ally and a terrifying enemy. You want no enemies here, you know.”

Trust the cats. Do what he says. Hand her the few yellow crackers. Bow politely when she thanks you, and take the scrap of cloth she presses into your hand. It is of more use than you think. Keep walking. Do not look back. She will not be there if you do.

There is a pool in the middle of the forest. It’s bubbling sound is pleasant. Sit down beside it. Take off your shoes. Dip your feet in the water. The black cat sits down beside you, washing its paws. You can see flamingos a few yards in, though they don’t move like any flamingos you’ve ever seen. They walk as if they are in a dance, but you can hear no music. It is okay to watch them, but if you find it funny (and it is doubtful that you do) do not laugh. Be respectful of their dance. They move with the rhythm of the wind. Remind yourself to breathe against it.

The cat falls with a yowl into the pool. Pull him out quickly. He is terrified. Pull the cloth from your pocket and rub him dry. Now he is grateful, and he will be your friend for good. You don’t know why, but you are deeply relieved to have a friend here. It is at once a beautiful and desperately lonely place. The cat nuzzles himself into the crook of your arm. Scratch between his ears. Breathe with the rhythm of his purr. Close your eyes. Go to sleep.

When you wake up, it is raining, and you are no longer in the forest. You are on a sidewalk, surrounded by a wall of mist on every side. You can see no more than ten feet any way you look. The cat is curled up on your stomach, sleeping peacefully. Do not wake him. He won’t be happy to find himself wet again.

People pass by, appearing from the mist and disappearing into it a few seconds later. Some of them are familiar. The girl with the balloon floats by, unseen. The fish leap from the cement, gulping in the rain with every breath. The man with the half-painted face lopes by, a bale of umbrellas tucked under one arm. He stops in front of you, offers you a deep red one. Take it. Nod politely, but do not speak. He would be startled by the sound. He smiles fondly and vanishes into the fog. A chameleon skitters its way across the pavement, darting his eyes around anxiously. He looks very suspicious. Don’t ask him what he’s hiding.

The clown is back. Open the umbrella. Hold it in front of you, so he cannot see you. You can feel his stare. The cat purrs. It is safe to look now. He is gone.

Hold the umbrella over yourself and your friend and wipe him dry with your free hand. When he wakes up, he nuzzles you affectionately. It is a wonderful relief to have him awake. The two of you sit huddled under the umbrella, waiting for someone else to pass by.

Someone else does. You do. A person with your face appears from the fog, smiles, beckons, leaves. From now on, the choices are up to you. It is wisest not to follow yourself, as anything wearing your face is not to be trusted. However, if you do not you may never find a way out of this strange world. If you choose to follow yourself, proceed with caution. When you pass the big-t0p with too-bright colors — and you will — do not go inside, no matter how loud the laughter coming from within is. Do not. It is not safe.

It might be that if you follow yourself, you will reach the end of the world. When you do, it is okay to look down. The drop is deep and dark and sharp, and goes on forever. I cannot tell you what is down there. I don’t know, and I don’t want to. Do not feed it.

Or, perhaps, you will find the Way Out. It will look like a forest, a normal forest, with normal animals. If you reach the Way Out, the cat will leave. This is okay. Say goodbye with grace. He cannot come to this world. He is not like you. Step over the line. There, the leaves will crunch under your feet and the birds will sing and the crickets will chirp and you will not have to remind yourself to breathe against the wind. There, you will reach a picnic. You should sit down and eat your fill. It will make you sleepy. Allow it to soothe you into unconsciousness. It is the Way Out. When you awake, you will be back here, in the real world. You will have escaped.

Of course, you do not have to leave. I didn’t. This is my map. These are my daydreams. Daydreams are a curious thing. Sometimes they can be controlled. I often find that a better way to go about it is to control myself within them. And so, I have developed a series of instructions in case you ever find yourself trapped within my world. This is a world of no explanations, no plot, no motivation. It is a world in which everything seems to be asking an unspoken question, which I do not know the answer to because I still do not know which question is being asked. It is a world in which no one has a name, and if you have one you are likely to forget it. If you should ever find yourself there, you should know that it is not a good place, or an evil one — but it is dangerous to venture inside without knowing what to do. So now, this is your map.

If you wish, you can stop by and say hello. I’ll be here on the sidewalk, in the rain. We can jump in puddles if you like, before you move on, as long as you promise to share the umbrella when the clown comes by. Trust the cats. Always remember to breathe against the wind. Put the map back in your pocket now.

Close your eyes.

When Harry Met Lauren

There once was a boy named Harry. He had messy black hair, green eyes, round glasses, and a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. He was a wizard.

There was also a girl named Lauren. She had messy blonde hair, blue eyes, freckles on her nose, and an urgent, pressing, constant desire to read every book she could get her hands on.

Harry and Lauren met one day in her tiny apartment bedroom in Dallas. She shared it with her little sister. It was a very, VERY small room.

They also met in a tiny cupboard under the stairs at Number 4, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. He shared it with some spiders. It was a very, VERY small cupboard.

Lauren was eight.

Harry was ten-almost-eleven.

Lauren was American.

Harry was British.

Harry was a wizard.

Lauren was not.

But none of these differences mattered. In this strange, bespectacled boy Lauren found a friend. He was brave, and kind, and actually quite bright (though he dimmed in comparison to Hermione Granger — Lauren’s hero). He was loyal and accepting and forgiving and everything Lauren wanted to be.

Harry’s world opened up a door for Lauren. A door that lead to a world beyond her tiny apartment bedroom. A world where people could fly, and fight trolls, and defeat horrifically evil wizards before they’d stopped being a preteen.

This was a big deal because Lauren wasn’t even a double-digit yet.

And in this world, things were different. There were all kinds of love in that world. Romantic love, yes, but not right away. First, there was fatherly love.

James Potter sacrificed his life trying to protect his wife and son from the evil wizard, Voldemort.

And then there was motherly love.

Lily Potter not only gave her life to protect her son that night. The magic her sacrifice left in Harry’s veins protected him all his life.

And then there was WEIRD love.

Say what you will about the Dursleys, but Aunt Petunia loved her Diddy-kins.

And then there was the love of friendship.

There was Ron. Blunt and witty and funny and awkward. Ginger and freckle-faced, the youngest of six boys (with one younger sister). Loyal and kind-hearted and brave. And then, a little bit later, there was Hermione. Sweet and smart and bossy and nosy and fierce and protective and confident. Bushy-haired and buck-toothed and always with her hand in the air. The daughter of Muggles. A facer of impossible odds. And sometime later, there were more. Neville and Luna and Ginny.

And there was brotherly love.

Sirius Black was more than a godfather to Harry. He was a brother and a father and a friend all wrapped up in one. And Ron was the family Harry never had.

And there was sisterly love.

Harry and Hermione loved each other deeply, but she was his sister. And it was perfect that way.

And there was familial love.

The Weasleys — fierce, brave, fiery-spirited, hot-tempered, and affectionate — the Dursleys — loud, boisterous, annoying, abusive, ridiculous and sickening — the Malfoys — snobby, elitist, racist, and loyal to a fault — the Dumbledores — mysterious, scarred, broken, hidden, and sad.

There was obsessive love.

Bellatrix was infatuated with Voldemort, despite the fact that she was already married. But to Voldemort, she was never anything more than a human shield. Not to mention Lavender Brown, every teenage boy’s worst nightmare.

There was the love that exists between a teacher and a student.

Harry and Dumbledore loved each other. Albus was Harry’s hero. Harry was everything Dumbledore wished he had been. There was nothing weird or wrong about it. It was just love.

And there was, of course, romantic love.

Harry and Ginny. Ron and Hermione. Tonks and Lupin. Arthur and Molly. Lily and James. Lily and SNAPE. Cedric and Cho. Albus and Gellert. Hagrid and Madame Maxime. Bill and Fleur. NEVILLE AND LUNA (I don’t care that in Jo’s world, they weren’t together. In my mind, THEY ARE A THING).

And then there were these WOMEN. These HEROES. These VILLAINS. They weren’t dainty or meek or damsels in distress. Not at all.

First there was Lily. A mother who sacrificed her life to save her child.

Then Hermione. Brilliant, outspoken, confident and a little bit bossy, and never, ever hiding who she truly was for the sake of others’ opinions.

Then Professor McGonagall. A grumpy old spinster with a mysterious past, a courageous spirit, and a LARGE mischievous streak.

Then Molly Weasley. Warm, kind-hearted, affectionate, loving, and TERRIFYING when she was angry. Lily might have died for her child, but Molly killed for hers.

Then Luna Lovegood. Weird, ethereal, imaginative, faithful, and UTTERLY unaffected by the opinions of those around her — not to mention brave.

Ginny Weasley. Hot-tempered, stubborn, competitive, mischievous, smart, confident, and actually a bit of a flirt.

Nymphadora Tonks. Clumsy, tomboyish, blunt, relaxed, easygoing, courageous.

Then Bellatrix Lestrange. Insane, hilariously evil, so much fun to hate, and not afraid to be absolutely SICK.

And Dolores Umbridge. KILL IT. KILL IT WITH FIRE.

Narcissa Malfoy. A woman of no redeeming qualities other than her love for her family. Lily died, Molly killed, and for her child? Narcissa lied. And you won’t know how brave that was unless you read the books.

There were, of course, a few not-so-awesome women to off-set the awesome ones. Cho, Fleur, Lavender, Pansy — all EXCESSIVELY annoying. But Lauren knew this was done on purpose.

In this world, there was sacrifice. Bravery. Nobility. Loyalty. Unconditional love and forgiveness.

She learned to fight. She learned to stand up for what she believed in no matter what. She learned how to be a good friend. She learned that no one’s opinion is worth sacrificing your identity. She learned that ALL obstacles can be overcome. She learned that to love someone with all your heart doesn’t have to mean you love them romantically. She learned that she, as a woman, did NOT have to be weak or powerless or dainty. She could be strong and powerful and bold and smart and STILL be beautiful and feminine. She learned that anyone can be a hero, and anyone can be a villain, and that it all depends on your choices.

This world taught Lauren who she wanted to be when she grew up.

She’s almost there. Lauren is 16-almost-17. Her hair is still blonde, and her eyes are still blue. She’s not quite as bony as she was, and there are no scabs on her knees. She’s learned a few things. She’s developed a few talents (none of which, rather to her disappointment, include the ability to fly a broomstick). She still reads as many books as she can (often multiple books at once), though she’s a bit pickier — she likes fantasy books, and doesn’t read as many shampoo bottles.

Harry is about 31 by now. He’s married to Ginny. Has three kids. Is an Auror. He’s still best friends with Ron and Hermione. He probably always will be.

Lauren writes now. Rather well, actually. Stories, mostly. Some poems. She attributes this passion for writing to a series of books about a young man who found out he was a wizard and, through a series of fantastic events, saved the world.

Harry’s scar doesn’t bother him anymore.

All is well.

Thanks, Harry.

All Hallow’s Eve (A poem by yours truly)

When the Harvest Moon rises,
And black cats are about,
When witches are winking
And the Pumpkin King’s out

When the broomsticks are dancing,
And the skeletons sing,
When the werewolves are howling
And the owls take wing

When Dracula waits
In his fortress of stone;
When Frankenstein’s monster
Wanders and roams;

When the undead go walking,
And the warlock’s spell’s cast,
When the cauldron boils over
And the Wicked Queen laughs

When the ape speaks your name,
And the crow hovers near,
When your walls start to see
And the hilltops can hear

When the scarecrows are waving,
And the fire’s too hot,
When there’s a hand on the doorknob
And an eye in the pot

When the sun rises golden
And it touches the leaves,
Better run, better hide;
This is All Hallow’s Eve.

Worthy to Be Served

Jesus says that I am a princess.

Okay, sure. I’ll believe that. I mean, He’s the King, and He’s adopted me as His daughter, so logically that DOES make me a princess. This really isn’t a concept that’s hard for me to embrace. That I am loved, prized, and highly valued, I accept and believe with all — well, most of, anyway –my heart. And I can use the word “princess” when thinking about myself. That I am “royalty” however… That idea has always been one that’s slightly repulsive to me.

Why is that? Princesses are, by very definition, royalty. I am of royal blood, adopted by the creator and ruler of the universe. I have a birthright, an inheritance, the greatest inheritance any living thing can receive. To be royal is something to which I have a right. But to be treated as royalty has always made me feel, well… wrong.

That’s not to say that I have a problem with my younger sister occasionally saying, “Hey, Lauren, it’s fine, you stay here, I’ll do the dishes today”, which does sometimes happen. We keep it fair, though. When she says that, she really isn’t doing me a favour in the long-run because we both know that the next time we have to do the dishes, I’ll volunteer to do them by myself to keep things even. Short-term, though, it’s a very nice thing to do, and I don’t mind at all being given an extra half hour to do nothing while someone else does the work for me.

But like I said, we keep it even. I do a chore for her, she does a chore for me. If she volunteers to do a chore for me, I take another one for her. We’ve been doing that for years, and it’s actually a pretty good system, especially given that we’re prone to fighting with each other when we work in close quarters together. But for some reason, I’ve always had a problem asking other people to do things for me, and it’s even harder for me to accept help when it’s offered.

For example, I went to Joplin last summer with my drama class. We were there on a relief mission to help raise money for a local theatre that had been destroyed in the tornado, and we were also helping out a church that had been giving a LOT of its time to help people who’d lost everything in the storm — we were sort of returning the favour. And it was great fun and it was hard work and it was late nights and early mornings and humid weather and incredible unity with some of the best people I’ve ever met. And we carried a lot of really heavy boxes. A LOT. Of really heavy boxes.

Now, when a box was so heavy that three of us girls put together could hardly stand up underneath its weight, I had no problem letting a couple of guys take it away from us. But there were multiple instances when one of my guy friends (all of whom I love and respect very much) would offer to carry a box for me or help me sort out a storage shed full of heavy boxes, and I would turn them down. As if their offer was somehow implying that I was too weak to do the work for myself, as if I had to be fine and able, no matter how heavy some of the boxes were, or else I’d become some sort of burden.

And, more recently, I was in a production of “Scrooge, The Musical!” with a local theatre, and because I don’t drive I had to ask for a ride to almost every rehearsal — mostly from my director and from my buddy Wil, who happens to be one of my best friends. And every time I had to ask for a ride, I felt so out-of-place and in the way. I felt, again, like I was a burden.

Even my own dad isn’t free from this mindset. He offers to help me with my math work, and I say “No, I think I’ve got it”, even though most of the time, I really haven’t. I find myself craving a trip to the movie theatre or bookstore, and I literally have to work up courage (sometimes even giving myself a pep talk beforehand) to ask him if he’ll take me. Recently, I found myself in a very odd, very unexpected state of unreasonable sadness and exhaustion, and couldn’t bring myself to ask him to make dinner for me. Even when he saw me crying and offered to make me some macaroni, I still felt horrible for saying, “Is that alright with you?” and for even accepting the macaroni once it was done.

In fact, looking back on all this, I realize that almost every time I feel guilty about asking for or accepting help, the help has come from guys. Men (the one exception being my director, Mrs Roberts). For the most part, I don’t have a problem asking for or accepting help from women. When my mom or my sister or my close gal-friends offer to help me, I’m totally fine. I certainly don’t have to work up courage to ask them if they can help me carry something or give me a hand with chores or help me out with my homework. But when the help comes from a guy, I either feel guilty for asking or guilty for accepting.

And this is ridiculous.

For one thing, I am being incredibly unfair to the men in my life. When I ask them for help and feel guilty about it, I am basically just assuming that they don’t want to help me, that they don’t care about me, that they’re so selfish that they’d never want to help me. None of which is true. And when I accept help that is offered and feel guilty about it, I’m actually feeling guilty about giving them what they want. They want to treat me as a lady, they want to help me out, and yes, they want to serve me, and yet when I give that to them I beat myself up about it for “being a burden”.

Which leads me to my second point: I am being unfair to myself. I am allowing myself to believe that I don’t deserve help and that I have to be as independent from their help as possible, or else that makes me weak and burdensome. Every time I ask for or accept help from a guy, I spend hours afterwards beating myself up about it. I mentally and emotionally hurt myself over the fact that I’m letting a guy help me. And that is so wrong in so many ways, it kind of scares me.

The thing is, though, that I didn’t start thinking of it that way until just a few minutes ago. My friend Wil posted a video on facebook of a man reciting a spoken-word poem, a God-given message from guys to girls. I watched it, and I was bobbing my head up and down, agreeing, smiling, saying to myself, “I’m so glad there are guys out there like this. I’m even blessed enough to know a few of them” and “I wish all girls knew this” and then the guy said, slowly and pointedly, “You are worthy to be served”.

My mind froze. Wait, what?

“You are worthy to be served.”

Say it one more time.

“You are worthy to be served.”

I felt like God had grabbed onto my heart and was forcing it to focus on that one line, and I found myself remembering every time I’d refused help from a guy, every time I’d had to give myself a pep talk to be able to go ask my dad for a favour, every time I’d beaten myself up over asking for or accepting help from my dad or one of my guy-friends. And then I heard God whisper something in my ear, slowly and pointedly.


And I remembered every time Jesus had given of Himself to help a woman in the Bible, every time He’d said that He came to earth to serve, to help those who were in need. I pictured Him washing His disciples’ feet and saying, “I came to serve, not to be served”. I’d always used those stories and scriptures as motivation for mission trips and charities and helping my friends at church and drama class as much as I could, as reasons for encouraging my friends to the point where my director called me “Lauren the Encourager”, a title that I’m secretly (and, I think, rightly) quite proud of. But now, the more I thought about it the more I realized that those verses were not just meant to be instructions. They were a message. A message from Jesus, to lots of people but right now specifically to me, that He came to serve me. Among others of course, but… me.

And it dawned on me: I am worthy to be served.

Not just loved, not just valued, not just highly prized, but served.

Now, I don’t mean that from now on I’m going to lounge around and eat grapes and ice cream while my guy-friends do all my work for me, or that I’m going to assume that if I ever need a favour one of them has to give it to me. Me choosing to accept help or ask for it without feeling guilty does not mean that I’m now lazy. There is still a limit to how many things I can ask for from my friends. After all, they are my friends, not my personal slaves.

What this is is a declaration. I am choosing to see myself as royalty. I’m still humble, still human, and still a servant, but my Father is the King of Kings, and He chose me. And I am worthy to be served.

And, just in case someone is reading this… so are you. Men and women alike.

You are worthy to be served.

Because God is awesome.

(Note: Sorry if this post is a bit rambling at times. I’m still feeling a little stunned and confused, and more than a little emotional, so the thoughts in my head are pretty jumbled right now and may have gotten twisted and tangled coming out in print.)

The Forgotten Legend of Mitzy Bunkler: A Bedtime Story by Lauren Elizabeth (part 3)

The oldest thing in the universe was not a human.

It was not anything that any human, other than Timmy, has ever seen, or would ever see again.

The oldest thing in the universe was something called a Faraway.

Faraways were once a strong, proud race of people. They lived on a planet hundreds of thousands of lightyears away from Earth, called The World of Listeners. There were all sorts of kinds of Listener on the World of Listeners. There were the Silent Children, and the Deepening Mountains, and the Rootgazers, and the Starhunters. But the oldest, proudest and strongest of these races were the Faraways.

They reigned as kings over the World of Listeners for hundreds of thousands of years. The shortest stood over ten feet tall, and those were just their children. The tallest and oldest of them could grow to be more than sixty feet above the ground. Each of them carried a staff, a staff fashioned for them by the Rootgazers who were excellent workers of wood, and at the end of each staff was a beam of light. And sometimes the light glowed as if it were a sun, and other times they seemed no brighter than the tiny pinprick of light on the end of a firefly, and that is how you could tell when a Faraway had thought up a really good story; when his staff shone so bright that you could see it from miles and miles away. And when the staffs glowed like this, Listeners would come from all around to gather at the Faraway’s feet, and there they would sit, to listen to the tales of the universe. For that is how Faraways first came to be kings. The Listeners must have something to listen to, and nobody told better stories then the Faraways, the Kings of the World of Listeners.

But that was a very long time ago now. There are very few Listeners left in the universe, and none of them live on the World of Listeners anymore. The Silent Children grew up, and left for a planet with jobs and telephones. The Deepening Mountains stopped deepening and were turned to stone. The Rootgazers grew bored with the wood of their world, and left to find a place with new materials to work with and new shapes to carve. The Starhunters left one night to find the brightest star in the universe, and never came back — to this day no one knows where they are, or whether or not they found that star. And, with no one to tell their stories to, the Faraways began to die off, one by one, and the lights on the ends of their staffs slowly dimmed, and finally went out.

All but one. One Faraway was left on the World of Listeners. One Faraway left in all the universe. And he sat alone, his staff still lit, leaning against one of the piles of rock that had once been a Deepening Mountain, and waited, and waited, and waited; for he still had one last story to tell.

That was how Mitzy and Timmy found him. He was the strangest thing Timmy had ever seen. He looked as though he might be made of stone, but the stuff that covered the stone was soft and thin — a bit like fur, he though, a light gray kind of fur that must have once been deep brown, or black, or even blue or yellow. Or maybe it had always been gray. Timmy didn’t know. He craned his neck to try and see the old thing’s face, but it towered what seemed like miles above him (actually, the last Faraway was only about forty feet high, but to Timmy, who was only six and not yet three feet high, it seemed like this old creature was a big as a planet) and Timmy could only catch a glimpse of a long, sweeping white beard and eyebrows that were almost as long and sweeping, and just as white.

“What is he?” he asked quietly, not wanting to disturb the creature from his apparent slumber.

“He is the last Faraway,” Mitzy replied, the bells of her voice sounding far away and sad, very sad. “You were right. I have taken you to meet the oldest thing in the universe. We are on the oldest planet in the universe, but it is long dead, now. He is the only living thing on it. He has lived for billions of years, and a great deal of them here, alone on his dead planet. And we have come to meet him.”

As she said this, she stepped forward and touched the bottom end of the huge staff which rested beside him, and the light at the top of it suddenly burst forth in a blinding fury. Timmy gave a yelp and covered his eyes with his hands, but the next second the light had dimmed again, and when he looked back up, the giant face of the last Faraway was looking down at him from above.

“Not a breath of wind has touched my staff in over a million years,” said the Faraway slowly, as if he had not used his voice for a very long time. It (his voice) rumbled and roared from inside him, and somehow sounded to Timmy like a pile of earth falling to the ground from a shovel or a truck. “No living thing besides myself has walked on this planet for longer than even that. I am the last of my kind, the last of any kind that may have once roamed this silent planet, and yet there you stand before me: a little human boy and his picture, so far beneath me I can hardly see you; but you are there nonetheless.”

“What is your name?” asked Mitzy, twinkling as loudly as she could.

The Faraway’s face grew even sadder and even older than before. “I do not remember. I have tried, over the years, to recall what I was once called by my people, but I cannot. It fell from my memory long ago, and there is no finding it again.”

“How have you lived this long?” asked Timmy, frightened and hesitant.

The creature turned his great grey eyes upon the little human boy. “I do not know how I have lived. I can only tell you why. I live because I was given a story — the story — the last story. I was given it by the very last Faraway, other than myself, as he died, and I have kept it safe for all these years. But the story must be told, for I am old, and it will not be long before it is time for me to follow after my brothers and sisters.” He blinked slowly, and looked long and hard at the tiny little creatures standing below him. “Will you listen?” he rumbled, and it seemed to Timmy as though he was not simply asking, but pleading. “Will you let me tell you the last story?”

Timmy nodded. So did Mitzy. And the Faraway gripped his staff, closed his eyes, and smiled.

Through the woods, and over river, down the hills, and into glade; There we’ll find the hidden treasure, left where the Knight of Children laid; Lost in fog, and soil, and years, trapped inside the hermit’s mind; Drowned beneath a flood of tears, and left for only one to find.

Afterwards, Timmy could never quite remember the story. Not when he wanted to remember it for himself, anyway. But whenever he wanted to tell it to someone else, to Mother or Dad or Arnold, or someone at school, then he could remember. It was about a Knight, the strongest of the Silent Children, and the treasure he left for his sister to find when she’d need it most, and a very, very old tree that knew the way to find it, and a song — the most beautiful song — that was the only way to make the tree tell the sister how to find the treasure. It was the kind of story that was meant to be told, not simply remembered. What Timmy liked best about it, he decided, was that you never found out just what the treasure was. You had to imagine that part for yourself.

When the Faraway finished telling the story he looked down at Mitzy and Timmy, who were gazing up at him, their eyes and mouths wide open, but most of all, the Faraway noticed, with their ears opened the widest of all.

“You are Listeners,” he rumbled softly. “You are the last Listeners.”

And it seemed to Timmy that he could hear singing, and it was coming from the lighted end of the staff. He gazed into the light, and it didn’t hurt his eyes even though as he watched it became brighter and brighter, until everything around him had turned white and all he could see was the staff. He realized that the staff had become small enough for him to hold, and he knew, somehow, that he was supposed to take it. He reached out his hand and wrapped his fingers around the middle of the staff, and the singing grew louder than ever, and the light brighter than ever, and Timmy just stared and stared and stared at the light…

And then it stopped. The light vanished, and the singing was gone, and Timmy found himself still at the foot of a pile of rock that had once been something very different, on a planet that had once been full of people that knew how to listen, with Mitzy Bunkler beside him. But the Faraway was gone, and so was the staff. “Where’d they go?” he asked Mitzy.

She looked at him, her bright green eyes misted with tears. “I don’t know,” she said. “But I think something else is going to have to be called the oldest thing in the universe now.”

Timmy and Mitzy never did find out what happened to the Faraway, or his staff. But afterwards, back at home, Timmy became known by the kids at school as an absolutely marvelous storyteller; and they always knew when he’d thought up a really good story, because his eyes would suddenly grow very, very bright — almost as if there was something inside them, like a lamp, giving off real light — and then the children at his school would grow very quiet, and gather around him, and Timmy would always tell them the most fantastic stories anyone had ever heard — anyone who’d never met a Faraway, that is.

But now, on the World of Listeners, on the Empty Planet, Mitzy took Timmy’s hand, and Timmy felt himself disappear. Back on Earth, he opened his eyes. There, in front of him, were two normal-sized grown-ups. The woman was lying on a hospital bed, looking very tired but very satisfied. She kept shooting eager, impatient glances at the man, who had his back turned to her — Timmy thought he must be holding something — a pile of clothes that he was folding?

Finally the woman burst out, “Can I see her now?”

“Alright, alright, of course you can see her,” replied the man, laughing — it sounded to Timmy as though he’d been crying — and when he turned around, he leaned over and placed a tiny little bundle of blankets into the woman’s eager arms. As he watched, the woman, suddenly hesitant and, Timmy thought, almost scared, she reached out a tentative finger and pulled back one of the folds of cloth. There, underneath, was a tiny pink face, with a round nose and big eyes squinting up into the light, an open, toothless mouth and the smallest ears Timmy had ever seen. A baby. The woman gave a quiet gasp of joy and held the baby a bit tighter. “There you are! There’s my precious little angel! My sweet, precious little Rosette, is it nice to be a part of the world now? Yes it is!” The baby gave a wail. “Oh, I know, I know, Mommy’s tired, too, precious angel! We’ve worked very hard today!”

Timmy looked from the baby’s face, to the mother’s exhausted smile, so full of joy and utter delight, to the man’s proud grin as he leaned over his wife and child, holding the mother’s hand and looking as though he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing, to Mitzy. “Is she the youngest thing in the universe?” he whispered in awe.

Mitzy laughed her tinkling laugh. “Not quite, but almost. Rosette was just born a few minutes ago.”

Timmy watched the little family for a while younger. “It’s amazing, isn’t it? That one of the youngest things in the universe can be born just at the exact moment that the oldest thing in the universe dies?”

“It is,” said Mitzy solemnly, taking Timmy’s hand again. “It’s completely amazing.”

When Timmy opened his eyes, he found himself back on the sidewalk, waiting for the bus. His backpack was on his back, lighter than it had been before, and he realized he was standing up straighter than he had been, because the sidewalk seemed further below him than when last he’d looked at it. Mitzy was beside him, but she seemed to be growing faint. Only her eyes remained as bright as ever.

“Is it over?” Timmy asked quietly, looking into those green eyes.

The silver, misty head nodded once.

“You’re leaving now,” he said. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement of the obvious. It was time for Mitzy to leave.

“I am,” she twinkled, the bells sounding very far away. “But don’t worry about being sad. You’ll forget about me very soon. Everyone does. Everyone must.”


“That’s for me to know and you to forget about,” she said. Timmy knew she was trying to make a joke, but her voice was sadder than ever.

“I’ll try to remember you for as long as I can,” he promised. “I’ll tell stories about you. I’ll make sure everyone knows how big the universe is, that everyone knows that it’s so big that there can’t be any such thing as ‘average’. I’ll do it because that’s what you want, right?”

All that was left of Mitzy were her eyes, those glowing green eyes that seemed to float in midair. They blinked once to say yes.

Timmy felt tears spring to his eyes. “Goodbye, Mitzy Bunkler,” he whispered. “Thank you.”

And Timmy thought, just for a second, that he could hear the singing from the Empty Planet again, only this time there were words in the music. Goodbye, Friend.

And then the eyes were gone, and Timmy was alone on the sidewalk again, waiting for his bus.

But he wasn’t alone for long. A few seconds later there was a chattering of voices and a group of kids who went to his school ran up, laughing and talking and pushing and shoving, throwing pieces of paper at each other and telling jokes. One of them accidentally bumped into Timmy. “Oh, sorry –” she said, stopping to make sure he was alright, “Whoa! Are you okay?”

Timmy blinked and looked at her. “Yeah, I’m fine, why?”

“Well, it’s just your eyes are really bright and it kind of looks like you’ve been crying.”

“It does?” asked Timmy, surprised. He reached up and wiped his eyes. To his bewilderment, he felt tears there. Why on earth would he have been crying? “I don’t think I’m sad or anything… oh well. I’m Timmy. What’s your name?”

Her name was Angie, she was in the grade above Timmy’s, and she loved a good story more than anything else in the world. She and Timmy sat together on the bus-ride to school and talked and talked the whole way there, and Mitzy Bunkler, the last Faraway, and the supernova were pushed into the very back of Timmy’s mind. It was as if they’d never happened.

But they had, and Timmy never quite forgot, not really. They were always there in his head, sometimes popping out in his conversation, sometimes making their way onto paper when he was writing. He became a very popular boy at his school, because he had a habit of making everyone else feel very, very special, and he was known by his teachers and fellow students for adamantly insisting that there was no such thing as “average”, as well as the brilliant stories he told. And Mother and Dad and Arnold, who had always been proud of him, were more proud than ever, and when he got home from school that first day Mother practically burst into tears because “Your voice sounds as if you’ve grown up just since yesterday! Mommy’s little boy, grown up in just a few hours!” Timmy never quite knew what she meant by that, but he heard Mother telling Dad later that there was something so… so different about his eyes. She had always thought they were blue, but now there were definitely a very sharp, bright green, and it looked as though they’d seen a great deal more of the world than many adults on Earth.

And Timmy was happy. Really, truly happy.


Go look in a mirror. Any mirror. Do you see her? She’s there. It’s okay, you can say hello, although she probably won’t reply. But she may, you never know. Miraculous things can happen to anybody, and today might be the day that Mitzy Bunkler, the lonely, forgotten miracle, may just choose you.

The end