Building Our Main Street
Building Our Main Street by Kristian James is an excellent example of a truth I have discovered.
Many books described as written for children and young people are really books for all of us to read.
Kristian James is a first lieutenant and 20-year veteran in the US Air Force who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also deployed to help in the Coroner’s office during the pandemic. Kristian also writes books, supposedly for children, which all of us need to read.
Skilled in criminal intelligence, he is a cyber security analyst with a Master’s focused on criminal justice and safety studies. One of his ways of dealing with a difficult childhood was achieving acceptance and recognition for writing scary stories. His first book, All Hallows Eve In Salem: The Unofficial Town of Halloween, has sold across the globe.
Kristian’s wife, Jessica, an assistant principal, helped inspire Building Our Main Street after her grandmother was in a nursing home. Visiting Disneyland one day, Jessica remarked she wished elder care homes were like Main Street. They could be places full of different stores where you could get ice cream or go see a movie.
A week later Kristian thought of Building Our Main Street, put it together, and sent it to Jessica. She wrote right back to tell him it was beautiful and had made her cry. She reaffirmed he had written something which could help people, and told him, “This is the one.”
Instead of instilling fear in his readers with a scary story, Building Our Main Street offers ways for families to work through the loss of loved ones. In trying to bring happiness and fun in dark times, Kristian hopes his work will encourage people to smile as they remember those who have passed on.
How Do We Build Our Main Street?
Building Our Main Street tells the story of Nicole and her grandmother. One day Nicole asks her mother if she could go and see her grandmother. Nicole has not seen her grandmother recently and misses her, particularly their trips for ice cream. Her mother tells Nicole her grandmother has passed away and taken a trip down her Main Street.
Nicole is a little confused because Main Street is the street where the ice cream shop is located.
Her mother explains how each of us is building our Main Street filled with memories and people we love.
Kristian wrote Building Our Main Street as a resource for young people and their families dealing with the pain of loss. He gives us a story to help us find ways to take about and describe the memories we share.
For many of us, the most difficult part of losing someone is the sense of loneliness and abandonment we feel. It is easy for us to feel we have been left behind, to sink into the ways we miss the people we have lost. We allow our memories to overwhelm us.
The metaphor of building our Main Street which Kristian gives us helps us share our memories and stories with each other.
Kristian suggests parents ask their children to tell them about their Main Streets and compare how their streets change over time. In the same way we measure children’s height with marks on the wall, we can update their Main Streets every so often. It is an excellent way for parents to remember to take time to listen well to their children.
I began visiting my own Main Street as I read Kristian’s book for the first time.
Is Building Our Main Street Spiritual?
There are people who Building Our Main Street might make uncomfortable. They might not appreciate the approach Kristian takes toward life and death. Some people would prefer a more structured, theological understanding.
One of the reasons I love Kristian’s book is the way he does not get caught up in complex theological questions. Building Our Main Street is not intended to be a comprehensive solution to all all our questions about life and death and life after death. It is practical and down to earth, an excellent place to begin reflecting on things we may have missed.
Most of the time theoretical, philosophical analysis does not particularly help us. We are looking for ways to begin seeing things differently. This book is an inspired way to practice finding something new, to reflect on the pain we experience when we lose someone.
I find it helpful, rather than keeping track of my mistakes and my achievements, to walk down the Main Street of my memories.
Building Main Street gives me opportunities to remember and revisit the people who have shaped my life, the people I have loved.
We spend time reflecting in the places where we have been happy and enjoyed life, which is a spiritual quest.
Building Our Main Street and Veterans’ Day
Kristian’s writing is inspired by his experiences. He writes about what he has known.
In addition to writing scary stories, he is a twenty year veteran of the military. He has seen many things he does not wish on others. Kristian’s writing is neither shallow nor facile. He writes about significant questions in ways children, and their parents, can appreciate.
His experiences help him understand death and life and grieving better than most of us.
His primary recommendation is to talk to someone. It may be a friend or family member, or a professional. Each of us need someone to listen. Building Our Main Street is built around the idea of remembering and sharing our stories with each other.
I will give Kristian the last words. “Never be afraid to talk about what you are thinking or feeling. It is important, and you need to remember you are important.”
How will we begin, or continue, building our Main Street today?
Where will we remember as we are building our Main Street this week?
[Image by Kristian James]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.