Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 11, 2009

Hope, Happy Endings, and Good Company

We writers for children are expected to trade in hope and some kind of happy endings. So do teachers, like my friend Pat, who taught special ed for twenty years, then reading, now for those learning English as a second language. She can imagine triumphant endings for every one of her students, and she’s kept up hope for herself as she’s dealt with cancer for four years.

I’ve been learning more about doctors as purveyors of hope, too, the ways they offer stories as well as meds or surgery, the ways even a look can be interpreted re what might be possible now. A year ago, I went with Pat to a conference with a doctor from a notable research university, to see if she’d be a good candidate for an experimental treatment. I was her driver, but also there to listen, as who, maybe not even a doctor, can understand what a doctor says the first time through? I sat beside Pat and opened my notebook. The doctor reached over, shut the notebook, and put it to our side.

Excuse me?

I will do the writing, he said.

Pat and I are teachers, I said. We write.
I kind of wanted to punch him, but was thinking, this man might be able to help my friend.

You just need to listen, he said.

I kind of bit my tongue, and again when he told Pat she would be like a daughter to him, and “I can make you better.” It was those last words Pat remembered and what she needed. And while Dr. Patriarch annoyed me, today I’m thinking of him with some nostalgia, too. Pat didn’t fare well in the treatment he offered, and she’s tried a few others since. Today she spoke with yet another doctor and was told, in kind tones, of a waiting list she’d been put on, and she was welcome to call back. Pat heard hope in this, but not as much as she wanted: that’s why I’m remembering the way this other doctor filled his lungs with air and promised he could help. Even if he didn’t, and couldn’t, really make that happen. Even if he was, as I might have said in the seventies, kind of a pig.

So what are we left with when hope sounds less flashy? I start thinking of children’s books again, and what happens as you move from picture books toward the grittier novels for teens. Then not every ending is so happy. Not every beginning is giddy. Hey, often those books might be grim all the way through. But are they appropriate for the young? Absolutely. And do they offer hope? Almost always. The hope is in the message that you’ve got company. The reader and writer and characters are all in this together. And with Pat, I hope she knows she’s got me and her family and her other friends with her all the way. No one really is ever alone.



  1. She knows. She does.

  2. This made me cry. I’m so glad Pat has all of you to help her on this journey.

  3. You are never alone.
    I wish I could offer more hope.
    You’ve both got my prayers.

  4. Keeping you both in my thoughts and heart. Such hard things…

  5. What a lovely post. Thought-provoking, too. Makes me want to write something happy and hopeful.

  6. I know this must be hard for you as well as Pat. It would be easier not to be there but you’ll be richer for having done it.
    God bless you! I hope you find the right stories to keep you both company.

  7. lovely.
    I will keep you both in my prayers.

  8. What an absolutely heart-felt and touching post. Thank you for this. And much love to your friend Pat.

  9. How lucky you are to have found such strength and hope in your friendship with Pat. We find teachers in the most unlikely times and places, don’t we?
    My prayers are with you both that miracles come true. Oh g-d I have to believe. And I Do.

  10. You’re right. She knows. But of course sometimes all of us know this at some times better than others. Thanks, Becky.

  11. You’re so sweet, Tracy. Hugs to you.

  12. Jo, you’re all about hope and give so much. Thank you for everything.

  13. Thank you!

  14. I can’t think of anything much more happy and hopeful than Jane Austen, gnomes, and poetry. You’re doing it, of course.

  15. Joyce, what a beautiful line about finding the right stories for company. Yes, that’s the perfect thing to seek. Thank you!

  16. Thank you, Laura!

  17. Thanks, Debbi. And for the glimpse into your life on the other side of the world! Hugs.

  18. We are lucky, you’re right, Pamela. The strength and hope of friendship doesn’t just go away. Thank you for your prayers.

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