“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”
“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “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.”
It’s been a big priority for me as a parent to instill a love for books in my daughter. I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start. Looking back at my own childhood, many a weekend afternoon was spent at the public library. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have too many friends, or rather I didn’t spend much time with my friends outside of school. So, I read books.
A few days ago, Payton Taylor asked on Twitter, “What book got you into reading?” While human memory is notoriously fallible and unreliable, the title that immediately jumped to mind for me was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. To the best of my recollection, it was the first real “novel” I ever read. And I don’t think I’d ever been moved at that kind of emotional level ever before, at least from just words on a printed page.
Wilbur is more than just “some pig,” and he never really comes to realize just important and just how special he is those around him. He’s such a kind-hearted soul, and possibly the first to befriend a spider named Charlotte. As far as we can gather, the other barnyard animals never paid Charlotte much attention at all. But Wilbur did. And he cared for her dearly.
And that’s a big reason why he’s so flabbergasted that Charlotte has been willing to work as hard as she has to, in effect, save his life. “I don’t deserve it,” he says. “I’ve never done anything for you.”
I can jump to conclusions in a single bound? My mind can run a mile a minute? I can make statements that sound like questions?— Michael Kwan (@michaelkwan) March 22, 2019
My thoughts on friendship are much the same. While I may be a source of snarky comments and lame dad jokes every now and then, I know in my heart of hearts that I’m nothing special. I put on my pants one leg at a time, just like everyone else, and I’m also just trying to figure things out as I go along.
It was with that kind of mindset that I replied to my friend Alison Tedford when she posed the superpower question above on Twitter. My response was one of those throwaway jokes that was meant to carry no weight whatsoever. Truth be told, I tweeted that reply during a bout of procrastination. I mean, it’s not even funny.
But then she replied to me…
That you make cool tech reviews, videos, help people feel seen and are like impossibly nice.— Alison Tedford (@alliespins) March 22, 2019
Am I, though?
Like my other blogger friend Jamie Dunlop Khau, I’m working on being better at receiving compliments. I wasn’t completely sure how to respond to what Alison said, because I felt like I didn’t deserve it. I try to be a good person, because I feel like it’s the right thing to do. And I fail. Often. But I try.
And I’m also not entirely sure I feel “seen” myself, which is probably why I try to be a good friend to those around me. Again, I fail often, but I do try. Maybe, like the impossibly kind spider in Charlotte’s Web, I’m just “trying to lift up my life a trifle.”
(Aside: If you haven’t already watched it, I highly recommend the 1973 animated movie with Debbie Reynolds playing the role of Charlotte. The newer live action version? Not so much.)
Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.
In my mind, Charlotte’s Web will always be the book that got me into reading in the first place. It’s a book that will always hold a very special place in my heart, just like how Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton was the book that changed my life. Truthfully, if it were not for those two books, I don’t think I would have ever even considered a career as a writer… even if I’ve never dabbled in fiction professionally.
So, here’s to friendship. Be kind and be willing to accept kindness in return. You deserve it.