Thursday, January 7, 2016

Welcoming Strangers and Spoilsports


There are picture books that I wish everyone would read. This is one of them. Here you can find a sermon every few pages and illustrations that capture the heart of who we are as fragile, hurtful, but hopeful human beings. If you let the juvenile nature of this book keep you from offering it to teens or adults, you’ll be missing out on an opportunity to slip into some meaningful conversations about difficult relationships and building meaningful community.

The young boy in this book has a tiny elephant for a pet. Life is difficult because no one else has a pet quite like his. But the joy of loving his pet is worth the trouble of “never fitting in.” When they are not allowed to enter Number 17 on Pet Club Day, he meets a friend with a skunk who already knows she would not be welcome either. When they meet more excluded friends with unusual pets, they start a new club. Look at this!

When I see this illustration, I think about my church with pride, the good kind of pride because I believe we are aligning ourselves with God’s values. There are the obvious outsiders that we welcome: those who live on the street, those who “live in sin,” those who live with addiction, etc. But we are also godly when we are determined to be in loving, on-going relationship with those who are strange or spoilsports.

See any strangers (or strange people) or spoilsports in your neighborhood? Your church? Your work? Let’s really talk about how to be more welcoming and loving in their midst and less like Number 17. And remember, in certain crowds we all have the potential to be strangers and spoilsports, longing for welcome and validation, looking for those who will invest in relationship.

Picture Book: Strictly No Elephants
Author: Lisa Mantchev
Illustrator: Taeeun Yoo
Original Publisher & Date: Simon & Schuster, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet