There’s a picture online of Queen Elizabeth having tea with Paddington Bear, and it made me smile when I saw it. But I wasn’t surprised. You see, I have my own Paddington/Queen Elizabeth story.
When I was 6 or 7 years old, a nearby missionary family received a shipment of children’s books. They generously let me borrow some from time to time, which is how I came across A Bear Called Paddington. It was instant love. And with the decisive logic of a 6 or 7-year-old, I decided that the Queen of England needed to know about that love.
My parents gently
Her Majesty was a very busy person;
her staff was very busy;
a letter from our tiny town in Ecuador would take weeks to reach the U.K. and might get lost along the way;
I would probably never hear back from Buckingham Palace.
Then they gave me paper and pen and Mom helped me spell the big words. I don’t remember the whole letter, but I do know that I thanked the queen for running a country that had such things as Paddington Bear.
Dad took my letter with him to the capital city on his next trip and mailed it from the main post office. As the weeks passed, I pictured the Queen reading my letter and sharing it with her gal pals. They were probably too busy having tea to write back, but I understood.
And that could have been the end of the story.
Instead, about two months later, I received a small package from London. There was a note on palace letterhead thanking me for writing to the queen. Enclosed was a Paddington Bear pin.
As I got older, of course, I realized that there was probably some office vaguely attached to the palace and tasked with sending out form letters to school children who wrote to the queen, and that someone in that office dug one more pin out of the box of thousands, folded one more school-kid form letter - and then decided to ignore geographic boundaries.
But this is really a story about parents teaching kids that it’s okay to risk disappointment. It’s about the importance of reaching for stars beyond our grasp. It’s about the kind of magic that happens best when we're 6 or 7 years old and know that queens often take tea with adventurous bears.
And it's about the lasting impact of a fleeting moment of kindness, even when it’s to some random child in a backwater town in a small, faraway country.