When I was pregnant with Matthew, a friend of mine gave me a flat wrapped package for the baby. Â From the shape of it, I could tell that it was a book — but which one? Â The wrapping cleverly offered its own clue: Â attached to the front of the package was a small card, to which my friend had taped a single purple crayon.
Matthew, at the age of four, has grown to love Harold and the Purple Crayon. Â Really, what’s not to love? Â Harold is a resourceful child who creates his own adventures, all with a few strokes of his magic purple crayon. Â That crayon gets him into scrapes and out of danger. Â It takes him to exotic places. Â It even creates friends for him — who can forget the time that Harold was hungry and drew nine kinds of pie to eat, and then sketched a very hungry moose and a deserving porcupine to finish the leftovers? Â There is no problem that Harold’s crayon cannot solve, when paired with a boy’s ingenuity and imagination.
And that, to me, is a worthwhile life lesson. Â Harold doesn’t just settle for what is; he makes his own world, quite literally. Â He is a little visionary in a saggy sleeper, not content to stay at home, eager to roam (though he does return to his own bed at the end of the book). Â He is the embodiment of creative possibility, and as such, he is a pretty inspiring character.
In fact, many famous people have said many famous things about this very theme. Â The playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote, “You see things, and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were, and I say, “Why not?” Â Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”Â — one of my all-time favorite bits of advice. Â And Emily Dickinson, whose poems seem to have been to her what the purple crayon was to Harold, wrote, “I dwell in Possibility,/A fairer House than Prose.” Â Where would the world be if there weren’t people who looked around an empty space and said, “You know, I envision something really great right over there …..” Â Whether you’re building a hospital in a developing country or starting a moms’ group in your neighborhood, you’re doing the Harold thing … and it does make a difference.
I think Harold also resonates with me because I’m a writer, and writers, by their very nature, create something out of nothing. Â Every story, book, and Â blog post begins with the spark of an idea, and there’s such a feeling of satisfaction to taking that spark and creating a world of prose where there was formerly nothing. Â That’s why Harold is such a great mascot for the writing life, or for the creative life in general. Â Like him, we can accomplish a whole lot before bedtime, if we are willing to grab that purple crayon and scribble away.