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The Christophers: Celebrating Family Life and Guardian Angels



Tony Rossi,

Director of Communications

 

Though Kathleen Davis and Gary Jansen each tell different stories in their respective Christopher Award-winning children’s books “Feathers From Above” and “Remember Us with Smiles,” the one common theme is love. Kathleen explores the love of God that gave us each a guardian angel, while Gary (and his wife and co-author Grace) reflect on the profound love of family. Both authors joined me recently on “Christopher Closeup.”

Real life served as Kathleen’s inspiration for “Feathers From Above” when her four-year-old daughter started finding feathers in the house or outside and saying, “Mom, look, my angel must be nearby.” Though Kathleen had taught her children that God gave them guardian angels, she had never said that angels leave feathers as their calling cards. Her daughter came up with that idea all by herself. Kathleen said, “She would have different colored [feathers], and we would talk about them…We did it so often that I thought, ‘What a beautiful message that she has and what beautiful imagery it’s creating.’ I wanted other children to understand that [they] have an angel.”

For Gary, a father of two, “Remember Us with Smiles” began as a love letter to his wife Grace that recalled some of their memorable experiences as a family. The couple realized that it could be reworked into a children’s book, focusing on the extraordinary ordinary experiences of family and spending time together. This was especially important to Gary, who revealed that while his parents were wonderful people and hard workers, there was a lot of “brokenness” in his family when he was growing up. Creating fun and memorable experiences with his kids became one of his goals as a dad. He noted, “We all have plenty of bad memories we can focus on, but accentuating the positive and looking back—for me and for our family too—is a deeply spiritual experience.”

The spirituality in “Remember Us with Smiles” is implicit rather than overt. Gary explained, ”Years ago, a friend invited me to go on an Ignatian retreat, and I didn’t know anything about St. Ignatius. I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic school but…faith wasn’t a big part of my life...[On that retreat], I got my first introduction to St. Ignatius and this idea of finding God in all things…So, there isn’t religion in the book per se, but each spread has a deliberate spiritual idea behind it.”

The faith element of “Feathers From Above” is more obvious, but it also introduces children to a complex idea in an age-appropriate way. Specifically, it points out that having a guardian angel doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen. Kathleen said, “I know most people who have had anything terrible happen to them grapple with that.…Why would God let this awful thing happen? Kids, I’m sure, also are wondering this…I wanted [the book] to be honest and true to life. I believe that God doesn’t stop bad things from happening. God helps you when those bad things happen.”

Regarding his hopes for children and families that read “Remember Us with Smiles,” Gary said, “We want the book to open people’s hearts and for them to have an emotional experience and connect with the people that they love.” Kathleen’s goal with “Feathers From Above” also revolves around love. She concluded, “My hope is that kids will realize that they’re not alone in life, that there is somebody who is with them and they are loved…Life is going to be hard, but God is with you.”

 

For free copies of the Christopher News Note CREATING A LOVING FAMILY AND HOME, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org

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