Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Diana Rowe, author of Born to Die in My Place: A Timeless Story
FQ: I was touched by your dedication – “to my beloved mother Millicent” – as well as other people in your family/life. Obviously, your mom means a lot to you, as does your family. Would you tell us a little about her, as well as what made her such a strong influence in your life?
ROWE: My mother is a humble, yet strong individual who loves and cares about people. I grew up watching my mother take a particular interest in people who are hurt, mistreated and poor. She often reminded my siblings and I that “we are never too poor to help others.” Every week my mother cooks and shares with the poor. Every Sunday morning, in Brooklyn, NY she helps to distribute food and clothing to those who are in need. I guarantee, this Sunday, even though it’s Christmas day, she will be doing just that. She never lost sight of the people around her who are in need. She sees each face with a compassionate glance and always tries to give from whatever she has no matter how small it maybe. My mother has made a tremendous impact on my life because she uses her life to make a daily difference in the community. Anna’s grandma in my book, Born to Die in My Place: A Timeless Story, captures my mother’s heart.
FQ: Before asking questions about your book, Born to Die in My Place: A Timeless Story, I think our readers would like to learn a little about you. I see from your bio that you’re a Christian Educator. How/why did you choose this for your career?
ROWE: I chose to be a Christian Educator because I love both God and His creation, especially people. My mom often helped children including those with special needs and I would see how they thrived because she treated each of them as individuals whom God loves. That truly inspired me to become a Christian Educator. Educating students (children and adults) go beyond the temporal. I believe that each person was created in the “image of God.” Thus, each person is valuable and that needs to be communicated in such a way that the students value themselves and fulfill their God-given potential.
FQ: What age children (or perhaps adults?) do you typically work with and what are some of the things you have learned about yourself from teaching them?
ROWE: I have worked with children from Kindergarten to high school and adults of various age groups. Some of the things I learned about myself from teaching are (1) I enjoy learning from each person regardless of their age or socio-economic background. (2) I love empowering each student to succeed. (3) I am happy when I can problem-solve to help someone else. (4) I have a significant role to play in the development of my community both locally and within the global context of creating a better society. (5) I appreciate the unity that emerges amid diversity.
FQ: I understand that you enjoy gospel and classical music. Do you sing or play an instrument? How does this help you grow closer to God?
ROWE: I love to sing. Singing to me is like making my prayer requests, my praise/adoration, and my gratitude to God a melodious “symphony of one.” Singing helps me to grow closer to God because I actually spend time with Him and allow the words of the song to teach me about His love for me and others. Additionally, I love to sing the words that are written in the Bible because it helps me to memorize them faster and also to remember that God is present in every situation and at all times. Singing also helps me to destress after a long day and promotes an atmosphere of gladness in my heart.
FQ: It’s so refreshing to read a Christmas story that truly focuses on the birth of Christ, while also bringing up the overabundance of material things Americans enjoy during the Christmas season. Was it important to you to include the mention of material things in your book?
ROWE: The mention of material things in my book was extremely important because the meaning of Christmas can get lost in overindulgence. It is important to be sensitive to people who cannot afford the gifts and the spread of “delicacies” that so many enjoy. It is interesting that you mention “Americans” because my upcoming dissertation relates to students from refugee backgrounds who are so appreciative of the “little” that is given to them. For many in America and around the world, this country is blessed with abundance and it should be shared with those who are in need. It is always good to remember that Christmas is bigger than the people who celebrate it. Therefore, each individual or family can participate in the celebration just as they are with an abundance of what they possess in their hearts instead of clamoring for material things.
FQ: And speaking of material things, I found the story of Anna and her grandmother, and their lack of material things, yet love of the holiday, very touching. Do you think this will help children consider their own relationship to “things” they want for Christmas?
ROWE: The lesson of benevolence and philanthropy has to be taught by the children’s care-givers. The true “wants” of Christmas can be viewed from the perspective of “what does the struggling, poor, and unfortunate person wants?” How can I fulfill the “wants” of a person in need? I recently worked with a group of students who were asked to meet with other unfortunate children and make a list of what the unfortunate children wanted for Christmas. Some of the lessons learned caused some of the children to look beyond receiving “things” and give more to others in need. One 8-year-old boy said, “I just want someone to read me a Christmas story because no one ever read me a Christmas story before.” I thought that was incredible. Something that can so easily be taken for granted was all that this boy wanted. He received many volunteers to read him a story, counting down to Christmas. These are some of the moments that can change children’s “relationship to things they want for Christmas.”
FQ: “...Anna understood that Jesus deserves everything that she has, starting with her heart of worship.” This is so important – how would you suggest we help children learn this very important lesson?
ROWE: We can help children to learn this important lesson by introducing them to a “God who loves them so much that He gave His only Son to die in their place.” Jesus gave everything when He gave His life. Recognizing that Jesus deserves our everything is crucial to giving “a heart of worship.” Each person has a heart. Therefore, each individual can afford to give their heart to Jesus because that is all He really wants. Teaching children how to give a “heart of worship” includes helping them to build a relationship with Jesus and totally depend on Him for everything both small and great things.
FQ: My favorite line in the book is “...God sent Jesus to those who are poor and to those who are rich.” In this very divided time in our country, the truth in this line needs to be learned by everybody. Any suggestions on how people can use God to come to peace with themselves, and all the turmoil around them?
ROWE: God loves all people everywhere around the globe. Unfortunately, many of these people are poor. It is also unfortunate that many of these people are rich (specifically when the riches are misused to oppress the poor). God is the only one who can really bring people of every class together. In this time of earth’s history, it is imperative for people to pray to the Almighty God in heaven because He “rules in the affairs of men” on earth. God is the great Problem-solver, Peacemaker, Deliverer, and Economy-stabilizer. God is full of mercy and love yet most people are afraid to ask for His help because they believe that they must be perfect in order to approach Him. That is not so. God is waiting patiently for leaders of this country and other countries around the world to simply ask Him for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to govern the nations with equality and justice without partiality.
It is important for the families in the homes to call upon God to direct their lives and give them the love they need to love and respect each person in the home. This will ultimately spill over into the larger society because families make up our society. Each person need to ask God to help him/her to be more “other-centered” not self-centered. Then we will begin to look for the good in others and do something good towards them, expecting nothing in return.
When it comes to peace, God really longs to give each person His peace which is different from what the world classifies as “peace.” God’s peace is present even in the midst of turmoil. That means the individual who totally trust in God to take care of him will not be envious, jealous, or worried about what others may have or become stressed out when things seem to be going wrong. God is able to keep those who trust Him in a state of calm with the assurance that He is in control and nothing can happen without His permission.
FQ: On your “Show Appreciation for the Gift” page, how did you choose the questions and what responses have you had from readers about their answers/their child’s answers?
ROWE: I chose the questions on the “Show Appreciation for the Gift” page by looking beyond the story and thinking about the readers. I believe that when God saw our dilemma on this earth, He didn’t just sit back in heaven and do nothing. The Bible says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son...” (John 3:16). Therefore, God acted as a result of His love for us; He didn’t leave us to perish. Likewise, we also need to act as the recipient of such love.
I have had many responses from the questions on the “Show Appreciation for the Gift” page. One family sent me an email about their new family tradition which was about “making Christmas a time to give God’s love.” They decided to purchase copies of my book, Born to Die in My Place: A Timeless Story and give to the families and children they came in contact with during the month of December.
Another response was from a single mom who sent me a letter about her list of 5 things that she will do to “show the love of Jesus at Christmas.” Because Anna and her Grandma shared pies and cider in the story, this single mother bought five apple pies and five small bottles of apple ciders for five less-fortunate families. Also, she went to the nursing home and read the story to the men and women and they were very happy.
One child wrote me a letter telling me that she bought three copies of my book for her teacher and two friends at school because she wanted them to know about the real “Gift.” Recently, I received a letter from a Sunday school teacher who bought 25 copies of “Born to Die in My Place: A Timeless Story” for 25 children in her church ministry. After the children listened to the story, she asked them “Who do you want to share this book with so that they can know about God’s Gift?” To the Sunday school teacher’s surprise, all the children wanted to donate their personal copy of the book to another child who had none. She noted that “this book evokes a tremendous passion to be unselfish and simply consider the real Gift and how to become a giver.”
Another interesting response to the story was from a group of both adults and children who shared with me that they have “totally turned Christmas around by not buying any gifts for themselves, instead they bought gifts for the people at a local shelter and served them on Christmas day.” After dinner, they read “Born to Die in My Place: A Timeless Story” to all those who were present and many of the homeless individuals stated that “they did not know that Jesus is a Savior for both the rich and the poor. And the story made them feel included and loved by God.”
These are just a few of the personal responses that I have received through word of mouth, emails, and letters from my readers. This really touch my heart to know that my readers are making a difference in their community as they are inspired by my book, Born to Die in My Place: A Timeless Story. It’s a Christmas story that continues long after December 25 to remind each person that God loves them no matter who they are.
To learn more about Born to Die in My Place: A Timeless Story please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.