Inspiration Report

Today’s post is from guest blogger Joann Davis. Enjoy!

When I was growing up in the 1950s, the arrival of Labor Day meant one horrible thing—that the lazy dog days of summer were over and that the opening of school was just around the bend. We kids would soon be back at our little wooden desks, not at the beach, or out on our stoops, or in the playground until dusk fell and our fathers whistled us home.

There was one end-of-summer tradition, though, that I quite liked. It was picking the book I had read and liked best and writing about it. Before blogs, there were “book reports” to give us kids a sense that our opinions mattered.

This summer, as in days of old, I read several books. But my best book by far was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl’s classic tale of a poor, hungry boy named Charlie Bucket who lives near a chocolate factory that emits the most delicious scent. Charlie walks by the factory on his way to school everyday, lusting for something sweet. But Charlie, “the lover of chocolate,” gets only one bar of chocolate a year, on his birthday. Otherwise, he exists mostly on cabbage and watery cabbage soup.

One day, Charlie learns that Mr. Willy Wonka, the owner of the factory, has hidden golden tickets inside the wrappers of five chocolate bars. The finders of the tickets will get to visit the factory, and come away with a lifetime supply of sweets. Luckily, Charlie’s birthday is imminent and he will receive one Wonka chocolate bar.

Will it contain a golden ticket?

You’ll have to read the book yourself!

What I do want to share is an incredible passage from the book that speaks to the mood of pessimism I feel has been enveloping our country this summer.

The pessimism has had mostly to do with the economy; the sickeningly high unemployment numbers; the wrangling of elected officials; and a growing feeling in the pit of my stomach that our problems are not small and temporary, but overwhelming and permanent.

It was while grappling with this unrest that I read about Charlie Bucket’s birthday. On the morning of the big day he was gathered with his family to open his chocolate bar, knowing there were only five tickets in the whole world and that a few tickets had already been found.

At this moment, the masterful storyteller Roald Dahl writes:

“They all knew it was ridiculous to expect this one poor little candy bar to have a magic ticket inside it, and they were trying as gently and as kindly as they could to prepare Charlie for the disappointment. But there was one thing that the grownups also knew, and it was this: that however small the chance might be of striking lucky, the chance was there.

The chance had to be there.”

In life, we sometimes forget that the chance is there. It doesn’t matter if the situation has to do with our health, our career, our relationships or the woes of the nation. Very rarely are we out of chances and doomed. Even when the odds are stacked against us, even when the probabilities are low, the chance is usually there.

It is only when we forget this that we doom ourselves. In those moments, we stop opening the candy bar. We give up the quest for the golden ticket, which is still out there waiting to be found.

Hope is not a Pollyanna-ish idea that can be co-opted and tarnished by sloganeering politicians. It’s not fool’s gold. It is choosing to believe that however “small the chance might be of striking lucky,” it’s still a possibility.

In my own recent book, The Well That Never Runs Dry, a group of people set out looking for something seemingly impossible. What they find along the way is not Charlie’s golden ticket, but a sense of the real possibilities that exist in a world fraught with suffering and despair but also full of love and caring. It’s an old story but we must keep telling it.

Summer might be coming to an end, but I plan to stick with Charlie, to be on the look out for that very special chocolate bar, perhaps the one with the golden ticket.

I can almost taste it on my lips–one creamy bar, one bar of Wonka’s famous “Whipple-Scumptious Fudgemallow Delight.”

About the Author
Joann Davis is the author of
The Book of the Shepherd and The Well That Never Runs Dry. She lives in New York City with her husband, historian Kenneth C. Davis.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus