“I believe in fairies,” she said. She was a little girl in the first and second grade Sunday School class currently studying about our Unitarian Universalist principles and values, learning about how to incorporate them into their lives.
At the end of the course, the children were asked to write a belief statement. Her mother was worried that I wasn’t looking for a belief statement about fairies. I assured her it was a perfect belief statement for a Unitarian Universalist, but I’m not sure the mother believed me because the following week, the little girl came to church with a different statement. It was a more politically correct statement about believing in herself and people.
That’s a fine belief statement, too. And truth be told, more what the curriculum is looking for … have our children learned what our principles mean well enough to apply them? I’m still mourning the fairies, though. I don’t want our children to stop believing in fairies. They are part of the wonder and awe that our children experience in the world, and we struggle so hard as adults to keep a sense of wonder and awe in our lives.
I found that little girl, and let her know that I still believe in fairies, too. That my daughters and I go outside and build fairy houses all around our house, whenever and wherever we can. Maybe I’ll show her the fairy house that my children built at church in the garden, so the fairies will help take care of the people who have left our lives. Or maybe they come to take care of us while we’re sad and missing loved ones. I’ll tell her that fairies bring magic into our world, and why it’s important to have magic in our lives.
Fairies are a small delicate wonder about the unexplainable creation that goes on in the world. Why does dew sparkle on a spider web in the morning? Why does mist form in small pockets of earth on some mornings and not others? Why does a small ring of flowers or toadstools suddenly appear in a circle on our lawn? Why does lilac perfume make us feel so good when we cut a bouquet and bring it into the house? Why does the first wild strawberry taste magical when it appears?
Children take thanks back to nature for the small miracles they experience when they feed the fairies. The fact that their little crumbs of sweet bread and berries are gone in the morning isn’t due to birds or chipmunks finding unexpected manna, it’s because the fairies had a feast. I know it and they know it. It’s a way of accepting and incorporating the wonder of our world into their lives in a magical way that is just right for children.
Fairies are also large awe-filled entities to help protect them against their fears for themselves and their world. Think of the avenging elves riding into battle scenes in Lord of the Rings … was there ever a better sight than when they rode down into Helm’s Deep to save the day? The entire movie theater erupted into cheers the evening I watched the Two Towers movie! Those elves (or fairies, to my little friend and I) are the kind of fairies we all need to believe in … the fairies that bring justice and morality like avenging angels to our world.
As adults, we know that only we can bring a sense of order and rightness to our world, through hard work and dreams and postcard campaigns and candlelight vigils and sweat and tears and hard work. But we can dream about those elves riding down into our Helm’s Deep, riding to save us from the hordes of orcs and despair. And those dreams bring us comfort in the same way that dreams of fairies bring order and sense into the dreams of our children.
So, I believe in fairies. I dance in fairy rings at twilight with my children, to thank the fairies for the small bits of wonder and awe that they bring into our lives – the bits of wonder that are a gift in a world moving too fast for comprehension. We will continue to feed the fairies regularly, too, as a form of expressing gratitude for the peace and magic that center us and give us hope. They are one of the ways that we send thanks back out into the world; ways that I hope will bring healing into our lives and into the world.
I dance with fairies. How about you?
Editor’s Note: Robin Slaw is UUCC’s Director of Religious Education.