You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” ~Charlotte the spider
The book is still there – on my nightstand, along with the Bible, a book of Puritan prayers, and Here and Now by Henri Nouwen. I adore Charlotte’s Web. Love lives in that book. Grace lives in that book. Honor lives in that book. And best of all, Charlotte lives in that book.
Charlotte was – and remains – my childhood hero – an unlikely soul who understands clearly what makes her strong and what makes her dangerous. She holds no delusions, she knows who she is. And she has no ulterior motives in helping one little white pig. Saving his life won’t save hers. Making him famous won’t make her famous. He becomes a celebrity. And she remains a spider. Only those who take time to really pay attention understand that her everyday living and breathing and web-weaving is a miracle in itself.
I remember first reading the book in 4th grade. It was an old library book, already well-worn when I received it. I opened the pages, and read the entire book in one sitting. And then I read it again, dreaming myself far away from my troubled suburban bedroom and into a beautiful old barn where I would be Fern with my own perfect pig. I would draw webs, imaging what word Charlotte might select if she was describing me to the world. I wasn’t talented or pretty and my home wasn’t peaceful like the barn, but Charlotte didn’t mind. She taught me that beautiful things are born in unlikely places. She taught me about hope as I would wish myself into that little barn with Wilbur and Fern. She wove good words into me to replace all the bad words around me.
Words like creative, and enthusiastic, and dreamer. Words like writer and visionary and renegade and fighter.
Charlotte shows me even today that there is a place – always a place – to be wholly who I am, complete with flaws and frailty. And her selfless care for a little white pig reminds me to look at the so-much-more in others.
I’ve got a new friend, all right. But what a gamble friendship is! Charlotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty—everything I don’t like. How can I learn to like her, even though she is pretty and, of course, clever? ~Wilbur
Charlotte is my hero. And today, Charlotte says, “Spin your web. Spin it well.”
So, who is your childhood hero? And what have you learned from them? I’d love to know. Your stories inspire me so much.