Photo: Melanie Van Horn with Iowa Poet Laureate Mary Swander
Dear Kate DiCamillo,
When you wrote Because of Winn-Dixie, were you thinking about 12-year old dog lovers like me? I bet you were! I have had 3 dogs in my lifetime, each with their own personalities and quirks. Each of them had a special place for me. I know how Opal felt when that great, big, ugly dog ran toward her. She felt love for that dog she called Winn-Dixie, and felt the urge to take him home and call him hers.
But it was not just the dog who taught me a lesson. I discovered that my close friends don't have to be my age. They could be elderly, with wisdom and advice, like Opal's friend Gloria Dump. Because of thinking about what I read in your book, I continue to visit our local nursing home often. I enjoy learning from residents there! Friends could be younger, with a child's humor, like Sweetie Pie. They could even be boys, like Dunlap and Stevie Dewberry! The important thing is that you respect each other, share values, and have fun together.
Opal's church is a bit different and a little strange. In fact, it was a grocery store! I've been to a church like that, even one in a movie theater! But I remember a little song I knew when I was younger. “..... We are the church together. All who follow Jesus, all around the world. Yes, we're the church together.” The real truth is the building doesn't matter. The people that come together and their faith in God is what make a building a church.
But, the most important thing I learned from this book was a hard lesson: how to let go. When Winn-Dixie ran away because of his fear of thunderstorms, Gloria told Opal, "You've got to love what you've got while you've got it." You can't make something stay when it doesn't want to. When I grow up, I have to leave my home, my family nest, and fly. When both of my grandmas died, I felt like my world had ended. But I learned that you can't always dwell on the past. You can remember and look back, but don't let it keep you from living out your life. Thank you for writing Because of Winn-Dixie so I could learn these values.