I assume that you have heard of the story the Velveteen Rabbit. If you have not, it is the story of a little stuffed bunny rabbit who dreams of being real. To his owner, a small boy, the rabbit is perceived to be real, because the boy loves him so much. He gets older and shabbier but is content with knowing the boy believes he is a real rabbit. When the boy falls ill with scarlet fever and the velveteen rabbit must be thrown away, a fairy comes and tells him that because of the boy’s love for him, he could now be turned into a physically real rabbit.
Why did I mention this tale? Let me explain: In high school, one day during my semester exams I was rather tired and depressed. It had been a long, wearying week and I needed to talk with someone, anyone… just to get my mind off of the tests, which I was sure I had done poorly on.
So, after school, I walked down to the student personnel services office, and sat down with one of the counselors. He was a real blast to hang out with, and every student liked him. When we began to talk, I realized my heart really wasn’t in the conversation. My mind wandered back to the exams… to a doctors appointment I had the week before — anything but the cheerful subject we were speaking of.
He paused in conversation and looked at me. We began talking now of more serious subjects: a few health problems that I have, a fight I had with my mother the day before — things that were bothering me. After a few minutes of this, he asked me a very strange question.
“Do you think you are real?”
I was taken aback. What could he possibly meant by that? I pressed him for an explanation, and what he said was basically, he was hearing all of the things that had an impact on me, but really didn’t hear about things that I was taking part in or making a difference in. He likened it to the story of the Velveteen Rabbit: did I think that I was real to the people around me, and most importantly to myself.
To my surprise, I found it very hard to answer his question instantly or honestly. A few months later, and I am still thinking about it. It made me wonder that, if I couldn’t tell if I was “real” or not, what other people believed about me.
It makes you think: Do you have enough integrity, enough good moral character to be of any good effect on the world around you as much you would like to?