Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! On this day in 1904, Theodor Seuss Geisel, the children’s author and cartoonist better known by his pen name, Dr. Seuss, entered the world. To honor his birthday, a reading celebration, “Read Across America,” will occur nationwide in thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers. Good Shepherd Lutheran School is excited to celebrate this day as well. Our school’s hallways are decked out with Dr. Seuss-themed decorations, and the youngsters will receive Dr. Seuss writing sheets, stickers, and stamps. School Director Vanessa Bigam will kick off the celebration by reciting “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” to all our classes. In addition, our teachers will continue the Seussville celebration throughout the month. I’m slated to share my favorite Dr. Seuss book, “Green Eggs and Ham,” with the kids next week.
Geisel was a master at inspiring children with dialogue as a literary technique. Dialogue, a conversation between two or more people in a narrative work, helps advance the plot, reveal a character’s thoughts or feelings, and show how the characters react in a moment. Dr. Seuss’ simple words and rhythmic patterns easily captivate young minds and bring them into the character discussions.
The genius use of this device of drawing in readers to the chit-chat between characters demonstrates the importance of conversation. An open one-on-one casual conversation between two characters creates space for thinking, for empathy and for the critical communication tools we need to live a successful life within a community. Dialogue can genuinely change the world. Take, for example, “Horton Hears a Who!” In that book, the main character, an elephant named Horton, hears a tiny voice coming from a spec of dust, which he discovers is actually a small planet called Whoville. After dialoguing with the mayor of Whoville, Horton concludes, “a person’s a person no matter how small,” and Horton goes on with the adventures of trying to save Whoville from being incinerated.
In my favorite Seuss book, the dialogue takes place between a character named Sam I Am and another unnamed man who relentlessly tries to persuade him to change his mind. Finally, the ongoing conversation concludes with the success of opening one’s mind: “I do so like green eggs and ham!”
The backstory of “Green Eggs and Ham” also includes an example of the success of dialogue. The author’s publisher challenged Seuss to write a book that contained fewer words than his previous best seller, “Cat in the Hat,” which included 236 words. Seuss won the bet by writing this new masterpiece with only 50 words, and only one of the words has more than one syllable: anywhere. That dialogue resulted in his new book selling more than eight million copies worldwide.
As we celebrate Dr. Seuss this month, remember the importance of dialogue. This Sunday’s Gospel message invites us to listen in on one of the most essential dialogues recorded in Scripture, a conversation between Jesus and the pharisee Nicodemus. This will be discussed as we gather for worship on Sunday, March 5th at 8:00 AM (spoken liturgy), 10:15 AM (traditional liturgy with baptisms), and 6:00 PM (jazz vespers). Join us? Would you? Could you?