Why I wrote Jones of the Old Shoes

The Backstory

Jones of the Old Shoes is based on bedtime stories I began telling my son, Max, when he was 5-years-old. So, the book has been in the works for 30 years!

In 1999, Max was a 10-year-old fifth grader, and I was about to publish my first book, Identity Is Destiny. One day, Max asked me if I’d come to his class during “show and tell” and talk about the book. Of course, I agreed, but wondered, how on earth I could explain to 9- and 10-year-olds the message of Identity Is Destiny in a way that would make sense to them.

I arrived to see 22 shiny faces, with wide, curious eyes staring at me. After the teacher introduced me, I began by reading a short passage from the book I felt – and certainly hoped – would be fairly easy for the kids to understand. When I was done, I took a slow, deep breath and asked the class, “so, what does identity mean to you?” Their answers were striking:

“It means what makes me different.”

“It has to do with personality.”

“It’s something about who I am.”

Encouraged and more than a little amazed, I then asked the group, “what does destiny mean to you?”

“It’s about the future.”

“It’s what’s going to happen to me someday.”

“It’s about what I’m supposed to do with my life.”

Taking in the children’s surprisingly articulate answers, I asked myself, what’s going on here? A moment later, I understood …

Children know more about identity than we give them credit for knowing. We don’t ask them the right questions early enough. Even more, we don’t give them a framework they can use to start to discover an authentic sense of self that they can count on as they grow up.

As I left the classroom, I reflected on what had just happened and realized that it was I who had been the student that day. The students had been my teacher.

A week or so later, Max arrived home from school with a thick envelope made of yellow construction paper. It contained thank you letters from all 22 students.

I will never forget what some of these children wrote – one letter in particular, from a girl named Sarah, stood out:

Jones of the Old Shoes is dedicated to my two grandsons, Thomas and Louis. But I also dedicate the book to all young people, especially tweens, in hopes that their innate wisdom about matters of identity will keep them strong and secure over the course of their lives.

No Comments

Post a Comment