What does it mean to be real? “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams provides a great lesson on just exactly what it means to be real and be made whole.

“The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else.

For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.”

"What is real?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "Or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby."

The Skin Horse knew the importance of living. He knew life was much more than having all the latest and greatest gadgets. He knew there was much more than what was on the outside. He knew the importance of relationships. The Skin Horse had become real and was made whole by being loved.

Love may be where it starts for us becoming real, but it does not stop there. To be real in the deepest sense is to find realness within ourselves. When we can love ourselves fully and completely, then and only then can we love others.

We need to practice being authentic persons, genuine vessels of God’s care and compassion. When we see someone who is hurting, alone or afraid, let us reach out to them in love and concern to help them be made whole. Just as the Skin Horse said, sometimes it might hurt as we seek to be real and made whole, but the end result is well worthwhile.

Editor’s note: The Chaplain’s Corner covers everything faith related. Facts not attributed are purely the opinion of the writer.