If you were kinda short and had an odd birthmark–would it stop you from finding your star, and following it all the way to personal victory?
Those problems didn’t stop George Stephanopoulos or Mikhail Gorbachev–and it shouldn’t stop anyone else, either. Both these men knew that physical appearances have nothing to do, whatsoever, with the content of their character. An unfortunate byproduct of western society’s obsession with looks has led young people to sad, often tragic, places. Bulimia. Diuretic diets. Plastic surgery at 18. Cliques, slam books and multi-colored plastic bracelets that make me sad when I think about the implications.
Kids with low self esteem will do anything in order to be “popular.”
The obsessive quest for “beauty” in the post-modern world has given nothing but grief to children whose only real concerns should be whether to have the ice cream or yogurt for dessert. Children in Kindergarten are pressured to be “pretty,” and “strong.” This is a shame, and, many would say, a sin.
We who have reached our 30s, 40s and 50s are blessed to have some Wisdom that came to us through years of bucking the system. We know that physical appearance is irrelevant, that it’s what’s inside that counts. Being cute may win fame for a few minutes, but at the end of the day–a truly satisfying Life is the result of following your dreams; believing in the power of those dreams and never taking the NO of someone else as the final answer.
Allow me to introduce you to my new friend, Hayseed. Think of Hayseed as “EveryHorse”: he’s a lot like 99% of us. In a very real sense, Hayseed represents the norm, those of us who are smack-dab in the middle of the road. We who were not born with cherubs’ faces, destined to fight off the glare of paparazzi’s flashbulbs. We haven’t gone under the plastic surgeon’s scalpel to “fix” what God made. We can’t wear Chanel every day. We live and die with looks that are deemed to be “average,” or even below-average–and we’re OK with it.
Those things–artificial “correction” and overpriced togs–wouldn’t change who we are inside, anyway. Those are trappings, and, while it’s neat to strut around sporting a designer knockoff purse–it should never, ever be mistaken for a sign that we’re OK.
Hayseed understands this. He’s one odd-looking little horse. He’s not sleek, fit, handsome and tall. He’s not even one of those things, in fact: he looks weird, and has a star-shaped birthmark on his right flank. His eyes aren’t on the sides of his head, they’re very close together. For some reason–a factor of birth or personal choice–he sports red high-tops, an Old School ode to fans of neighborhood hoops.
Hayseed is lacking a lot of things, including fame–but I predict that that will not be his condition for long. Hayseed, you see, is the protagonist of the first title from Caballito Children’s Books, an Imprint of Caballo Press of Ann Arbor. Hayseed’s First Race by freshman author Sally Schrock is about to be released from the gate, and this little book is a gift to children everywhere.
I won’t spoil the plot for you, but it’s adequate to say here that Hayseed has a great Mommy, a mare who gets it that her little colt is unique simply because he exists. That every single one of us–mares, horses, colts and fillies, alike–are special simply because we breathe air and walk this planet.
The responsibility of realizing that is tremendous, you know: if we think that we don’t matter, there’s no pressure on us. If we look at the famous chicklets in Hollywood and think to ourselves that, well, I’ll never be in their position, or have their looks or their “stuff”–then we can lapse into that place that is perhaps the most dangerous of all: We may think that, because we’re not pretty or rich and famous, we aren’t extraordinary.
And Hayseed’s Mommy preached to her little son that we are all special–that her son, as awkward-looking and “uniquely unique” (my words) as he is–can do anything to which he sets his mind. Hayseed is wonderful simply because he exists, and every single one of us is utterly unlike anyone else on the planet. And that includes horses.
Hayseed is not expected to measure up to the other horses in his book, in more ways than mere physical stature. I won’t wreck the ending, but believe me–the lesson of secure self-esteem, the legacy of his loving Mommy, finally came home for Hayseed at just the right time.
Hayseed’s First Race is a book that will bless and touch your children, and help them to learn to love themselves simply because they should. If your little ones have ever been exposed to any sort of contemporary media or other people–which, of course, means all children–they need this book. The media will try, from the moment they are born, to convince your babes that they aren’t enough. Other children and misguided adults will join in the chorus. It is your job as parents and friends to help the tender little hearts in your circle to realize their full potential–and that secure self esteem comes from within, not from the input or approval of the Huns at the door.
I heartily recommend that everyone within spitting distance to run out to Caballo Press’
website and pre-order Hayseed’s First Race. Sit on a comfy couch with your gentle ones, and read this charming story to your little friends. Encourage them to learn to read using its friendly story–when we read something for ourselves, it’s driven home in a more powerful way. Hayseed, his Mommy and his shining moment of self-realization will burrow deep into the heart of tiny ones and adults, alike.
From Day One, parents are in the business of helping their children develop self esteem. Take heart: you have a talented ally in Hayseed.
You may be a grown-up with no children. You, too, may need the reminder that it’s OK to be the awkward one, the square peg in a world full of round holes. I predict that grown-up geeks with memories of making excuses, cutting gym class because they had no grace in their stride, will read Hayseed’s First Race and nod heads the entire time.
Hayseed’s First Race is Step One toward the first noble goal, that of finding your own voice and running your own race–your way.
Who knows? The child who today is an outcast, but who embraces her or his own merit early in Life may end up as the owner of a race horse who takes the Triple Crown. A doctor, priest, scholar or Trainer of the Year.
You may even end up as a racing essayist: the bestest, most funnest job in the whole world.
As always, May the Horse be with you. And please remember to Run Fast, Turn Left–and Never, Ever Give up. Hayseed didn’t give up–and he got a book deal!