Do you remember writing (or receiving) notes such as this? “Do you like me? Check Yes or No.” I suppose brave children still write such things where no answer meant the “no” answer and a “yes” was received with pure joy. Today we can easily “Like” statuses on Facebook, blog posts such as this one (hint, hint), websites, businesses, and the like (ha!), without feeling that a no answer means “dislike” (a clickable option on YouTube and some other forums). And so some of us put ourselves out there–sometimes offering funny or clever status reports, humorous or lovely photos, meaningful “shares,” or even deeper thoughts via extensive posts, such as on blogs. And we wait for those “Like”s or those encouraging comments and those “Share”s. Score! The more “Like”s or comments, the higher our status appears on Facebook–which means more attention, longer–and the better we feel about ourselves.
Or at least I do.
I care too much what people think of me. I can’t wait for those little numbers to appear in my Facebook tab; somebody has responded! I love the comments I get in person when friends tell me they enjoy my blog. When I create a blog post, I constantly check my stats. If a post draws a lot of readers, I’m thrilled. If my WordPress notification toolbar gadget lights up with a star (indicating “Like”) or conversation bubble (indicating “Comment”), I can’t wait to find out who caused it to do so. And when I feel a particular post is unusually worthy, I wait for that Freshly Pressed notification, that indication that I’ve been discovered and that a star (me!) is born–or at least noticed by the WordPress staff. It never comes.
And yet I continue to write. And post. And wait.
But why? Because writing is an expression of who I am. Some people speak without thinking. I write because I am thinking. It is often how I process lessons, and it is usually a reflection of the truths God is currently teaching me. I feel that by being transparent and sharing, I may in some way encourage you, my readers. I write first and foremost for my heavenly Father–who I hope to glorify by the words I pluck out of my heart and head and peck out on the keyboard. But I also write because I feel I would burst if I didn’t get to do so. I think God made me that way.
I had been thinking about writing a blog about the “Like” factor–actually, I’d begun writing it, trying to figure out a way to ask, “Why don’t you click the ‘Like’ button when you seem to like my posts so much?” without seeming so shallow and self-centered–and, yes, needy–as I likely am. (I do wonder if clicking “Like” requires some kind of formidable sign-in process when you don’t have a WordPress account.) Thankfully, I hadn’t gotten much beyond a title (which I changed) and the first line, when I had a conversation with a student after school.
A number of my 10th graders and a few others had gathered in my room–most likely because I’d brought an enormous canister of animal crackers for them and they were bent on consuming them in one day. Somehow in the midst of a conversation about my latest college course challenge (by Sunday, I have to imagine a digital game, create its narrative, appearance, and activities, write a lengthy document and create the story boards for an entire level of it), this student, Wil, asked me if I remembered the children’s book where the characters got stars.
I asked him if he meant the one with the wooden dolls who got stars, and when he said yes, I told him I thought I had it at home.
“It still freaks me out,” Wil said. “Could you bring it tomorrow and read it to the class?”
I immediately sent myself an email reminder and–when I got home–located the book and started rereading it. Which was when I realized that Wil’s request came directly from the mouth of God. To me.
Max Lucado’s story, titled You Are Special, tells the story of the Wemmicks, small wooden people, created by the woodcarver Eli, who award one another with gold stars or gray dots. The pretty and the talented and the otherwise approved people get the stars; those with little talent or who are less than attractive get the gray dots. (Sound familiar?)
“Some Wemmicks had stars all over them! Every time they got a star it made them feel so good! It made them want to do something else and get another star” (p. 11)
But poor Punchinello was one who got gray dots. He was clutzy and scratched and didn’t speak well. He had so many gray dots that people would give him gray dots for no reason other than that he appeared to deserve them. He was afraid to venture outside, for fear he would do something stupid and earn more gray dots. When he did go outside, he hung out with other dotted Wemmicks, where he felt more comfortable.
One day, Punchinello met a Wemmick who was different. She had no dots or stars–not because people didn’t try to give her any but because the stickers didn’t stick.
“That’s the way I want to be, thought Punchinello. I don’t want anyone’s marks.
So he asked the stickerless Wemmick how she did it.
‘It’s easy,’ Lucia replied. ‘Every day I go see Eli.’
‘Yes, Eli. The woodcarver. I sit in the workshop with him.’
‘Why don’t you find out for yourself? Go up the hill. He’s there’ ” (p. 19).
And so Punchinello went. Fearfully. And when Eli saw the little fellow, he stooped down and picked him up.
” ‘Hmm,’ the maker spoke thoughtfully as he looked at the gray dots. ‘Looks like you’ve been given some bad marks.’
‘I didn’t mean to, Eli. I tried really hard.’
‘Oh, you don’t have to defend yourself to me, child. I don’t care what the other Wemmicks think.’
‘No, and you shouldn’t either. Who are they to give stars or dots? They’re Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special…. Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me’ ” (p. 25-27).
Punchinello had never felt so loved or so special, but he just had to know one more thing.
” ‘Why don’t the stickers stay on (Lucia)?’
The maker spoke softly.
‘Because she has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them. … The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers… just come to see me every day and let me remind you how much I care’ ” (p. 29-31).
Don’t get me wrong. I like “Like”s, and I do appreciate the various comments and kudos you have sent my way. But I love the love my Father has for me.
I’ll be sitting in His workshop a little longer every day until I trust that love more and care less about what the world thinks of me.
Lucado, Max, and Sergio Martinez. You are special. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1997. Print.