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Christian Robinson: Why Feeling Like We Matter Really Matters

Headshot of Dr. Vivek Murthy in front of abstract colorful shapes
Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General
Headshot of Christian Robinson in front of abstract colorful shapes
Christian Robinson, Illustrator and Author
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Description

Growing up in a small, crowded apartment in Los Angeles, Christian Robinson drew castles, imaginary scenes, and gave himself special powers to create the world he wished to inhabit. Inspired by a grandmother who knew how to make something out of nothing, Robinson nurtured his art into a very real superpower – the ability to help children understand the world and feel they matter. This conversation between the nation’s doctor and a celebrated author and illustrator is about creativity, honesty, why we all matter, and the kind of feedback you receive when your primary audience is young children.

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Transcript

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Hello and welcome to House Calls. I'm Vivek Murthy and I have the honor of serving as U.S. Surgeon General. I'd like to introduce you to Christian Robinson, a celebrated children's book author and illustrator, who brings his spirit of creativity and play to all he does. We believe conversations can be healing. And today we talk about how people can feel seen and understood, kids and adults alike.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Hi everyone. Thanks for tuning into house calls. Before we get into today's conversation. I'd like to tell you a little more about Christian and why he's my guest. Christian is known for his bestselling collaborations and solo works, including "Last Stop on Market Street," "You Matter" and "The Bench." His book awards are numerous, including the Caldecott Honor and the Newbery Medal.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

After reading "You Matter" to my two kids, this idea of feeling seen and understood really stuck with me. And I wanted to talk to Christian about how he arrived at that clear, essential message. In our conversation, I learned a bit about what gives shape to his ideas and his work. Christian was raised by his grandmother and as a child he used to draw as an escape from an apartment crowded with extended family.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

On his path to becoming a professional artist, he received validation for his drawings, but he also had to learn to turn doubt, uncertainty, and a lack of resources into creative forces. His perspective is that being honest with children helps them have real discussions about their lives, which is essential to their well-being. I'm excited to share our conversation with you because I found Christian's ability to share some of his own experiences as visual stories really does help create hope, understanding and deep connection.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Christian, thanks so much for joining me today.

Christian Robinson

Hi! Thank you for having me.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well, I'm so excited for this conversation. I've got to tell you that I've read some of your books. Most recently, I read one of your books with my kids, and we were all just so struck by your talent as a writer, by your illustrations. It just seems like you are such, such a creative human being. But I'm curious, how would you describe what you do?

Christian Robinson

I would say I'm a picture book illustrator that I tell stories with pictures and words. I think I'm telling stories to children, but also inner children. So, yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

So I love what you just said. You speak not only to children, but to inner children. Can you can you say a little bit more about inner children? And do all of us have inner children? And if so, how do we find those inner children?

Christian Robinson

Yes, I do believe we all have that inner child inside of us. And yeah, I think I think there's all of us, there's that part of us that just wants to play and to explore and to be ourselves. And that's kind of what I want to make space for in the stories that I tell, offering all of us that that sort of message that your story matters, that that we see you, that that that your experience matters. Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well, I certainly resonate with what you're saying about everyone having an inner child. And I, I don't think that ever really goes away. I think sometimes that inner child can get buried under layers of decorum, expectations, other things, you know, things that we think we're supposed to do, or be, that perhaps get really sort of instilled in us over the years. But, but I think that inner child is always there. You know, my wife, I think, thinks that I'm seven years old most of the time because when we're around our kids who are four and five, I think I very much come down to their age and act accordingly. But I'll tell you that a lot of times it feels good to kind of inhabit that inner child. And I, as someone who has young kids, I sometimes look at my kids and I think, gosh, we could learn so much about them, not just about, you know, their behavior but about our own lives and about life in general by watching them and observing them. And that's one of the things that I was thinking about with you. I mean, you've had such an incredible vantage point as an author and an illustrator to think about kids, but also to almost in a sense think, you know, about how the world looks through the eyes of children. And I'm curious, when you think about that, like, what do you see? What do you think children are experiencing and and feeling and thinking about these days?

Christian Robinson

One of the things I love about children is just how observant they are. I think maybe that's just part of being humans, but I feel like they're always taking in their environments and really intuitive, actually reading the things on the surface, but also below, that sometimes the adults don't want to talk about. For me, it's important to just be honest with young people. I think that we do them a disservice when we're not having real discussions with them, giving them tools to like process their experience, this world. Yeah. I'm not sure that answer the question, but yeah, that's what came up. Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

And there's so much I want to ask you about, but perhaps we could start with where this all began for you. Like, when did you realize that you wanted to be an illustrator? When did you realize that you had the skills to draw and to tell stories with such power?

Christian Robinson

So, yeah, drawing and making pictures is something I've done my entire life. Yeah. From the beginning, I can always just remember having a pencil or a piece of paper or a crayon. I tell a story about being with my mom, who I didn't actually I wasn't actually raised by my mother. I, I was actually is my grandmother, but my mother, who was in and out of prison for most of my childhood, she was able to kind of spend some time with us one day, and she basically asked me, what do I want to do today with her? And I could do anything. And I remember I said I wanted to go see The Lion King, which had just come out. I think I was like eight years old at the time. And I remember seeing it at this beautiful theater in L.A., the El Capitan Theater, which is historic and has like this beautiful, like, Wurlitzer organ thing performance in the beginning. And at the end of this film, The Lion King, there was this amazing exhibit on the art of the film and how animations are created. And I remember that seeing that exhibit and just having a really powerful experience of being like, Wow, I love to draw. Drawings can become films and stories, and I want to I want to tell stories like this. And I would say that was a moment when I knew that's something I wanted to go for. Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

What a powerful moment. Gosh. You know, I, I think about how many of us find these moments of inspiration when we're small and we think, Gosh, I want to do that. Be an astronaut. Be an artist, be, you know, perhaps a professional tennis player, or a basketball player. But then something happens along the way that tells us perhaps we're dreaming too big or makes us not believe that we can actually pursue those dreams. In your case, somehow you found the confidence to continue down that path and to become the artist that you are today. And I'm curious, where did that confidence come from? How did you find your way?

Christian Robinson

Yeah. So I think oftentimes with what drives many of us, right, is sometimes validation. And I certainly did as a kid, get positive feedback when I was like drawing a picture and people would be like, Oh, wow, that looks really good. Keep it up. That's wonderful. And that was encouraging to me as a kid for sure. But I think regardless of that feedback to me, creating and drawing pictures was a lifeline. Like, I grew up in a situation, you know, with an absent mother and father and with my grandmother, who is not only raising me, but my my brother and my cousins, my aunt, in a tiny one bedroom. I always say that, you know, that limited space is what fueled my creativity, that I was trying to create and have some control over the things in the world that I had no control over. At least I had some say on on this piece of paper what the world could look like. And so for me, creativity was just kind of like, yeah, like therapy. It was my way of processing the world and having some say in it. So yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

That's that's incredible because it sounds like you didn't have the kind of upbringing where you were being taken to expensive art classes or being given you know, lessons frequently throughout the week. It sounds like you you discovered this talent along the way, and somehow you built a path toward sharing that gift with the world. But were there times along the way where you thought perhaps this is too hard a journey to make? Or did you always feel clarity that this is the path that you needed to walk down?

Christian Robinson

Good question. Yeah, there were certainly challenges along the way and and doubters and self-doubt that that arose. I know today I look at creativity as almost like problem solving. It's like putting a puzzle together. And so even doubt I almost feel is like a piece of the puzzle. Like, I kind of embrace it. Like, Oh, this is the moment where I'm thinking this isn't turning out how I hoped it would. Sometimes I tell myself to just step away and give it, give it some time. But sometimes I say, well, maybe if I'm it's not coming out how I want it to, this means it's an opportunity to try something different. So I kind of I go with that doubt. I use it. You know, if I'm struggling and not enjoying the process, I use that as a moment to say, well, I want to have fun. What else am I doing this for? And, and also back to something else you just said about like the challenges and limitations and resources. I mean, I think what again, what fueled that creativity for me was limitations. I love you know, sometimes, I'm only going to use two colors on this piece today and that gives me different ideas and different ways of thinking about things and how to approach it. So I think I think limitations are sometimes the best fuel for creativity.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

That’s actually making me rethink how I how I approach moments of self-doubt. So you're looking at those moments of self-doubt as part of the puzzle, part of the process, not as an enemy to be perhaps, you know, frustrated by, but just as a force to contend with that can actually maybe even help you get to where you want to get. It can sharpen your process.

Christian Robinson

Yes.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

That's really that's fascinating. I like that.

Christian Robinson

And actually, whenever I'm too confident or feel really like, Oh, I just knocked this out of the park, this drawing today. You know, I could come back to it the next day and think I'm delusional. This is not it. Or, I can, basically what I'm saying is I've had many experiences where I create something that I think is amazing and no one responds to it. And then sometimes I just create a doodle. And that's the thing that everyone's excited about. And I'm like, but I didn't work hard. I didn't sweat. I didn't cry over this. Why is this the thing you like? And then it's like, Oh, because I was maybe in a better state when I was creating this. I wasn't struggling and suffering and trying to prove something, you know? Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

You know, gosh, this is making me think about this old saying that I heard and I can't remember where it came from, though it effectively said that like, an inch of inspiration is worth the mile of perspiration. And the idea was that when you feel inspired, you can often do so much more than when you slog for hours and hours and hours in an uninspired state. And when I read your book, "You Matter" and, you know, read it to my kids as well. And I looked at not just the words, but the beautiful illustrations that felt inspired, like, you know, the thing I find myself wondering about is like, how do you find that inspiration? Is it something that you feel you can turn on and off when the moment calls? Or do you have to wait for those moments of inspiration to come, and then and only then do you actually apply your pen to paper and and write and draw?

Christian Robinson

Mm hmm. Yes. I mean, inspiration is everywhere. Like, it's infinite. There is like, no, that's my belief anyway. There is like no limit on all the possibilities and things that can fuel an idea or inspire me. But yeah, sometimes when you're actually sitting at your desk thinking, “create now” that of course, then nothing comes and you're like, Oh, I'm not feeling motivated to do anything at this moment. So, yeah, sometimes it is best to I mean, yeah, the ideas come when very inconvenient times, when you're about to go to sleep, when you're trying to go to sleep or you know, when you don't have a pen or paper. But that's also the other important thing for me in creativity. It's like the non-creative moments are just as important as the creative moments. Basically when I'm cooking a meal or having a conversation with a friend or reading a book or going on a walk with my dog, that's when it's coming. So it's, it's, it's not fully in that moment of sitting at my desk and creating. It's just existing, yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

I think there's a deep lesson there because I think sometimes it feels like if we're not at our desk applying ourselves, that we're wasting time, that we're not at the task at hand. But what you're saying I think is exactly right, that there are things happening beneath the surface, and sometimes those other activities will trigger our creativity or spark a connection that may lead to an idea. And you never know how and when that happens. But it does seem like just from listening to you talk that you've learned to listen to yourself over the years, to take, to step back when you need to, to engage in something different if you're not feeling your creative juices flowing. I think that takes a lot of self-awareness. But does that resonate with you? Do you feel like you've become more in tune with your creative process and self-aware over the years?

Christian Robinson

Yes. It doesn't make it any easier, to be honest. Like, what I'm saying is I still struggle. I still I mean, I still have these moments of before beginning a project of doubt of just, oh, my gosh, I fooled them once. Can I do it again? And yeah, I have to I have to, like, calm those voices down and just kind of just just do it. Just do this thing that I enjoy doing. Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well, I think the fact that you, an incredibly accomplished children's author and illustrator, have those moments of doubt, that imposter syndrome where you think perhaps you fool people once and maybe you won't be able to do it again. I think that probably will give a lot of people a sense of comfort that they're not the only ones, you know, who feel that that imposter syndrome, if you will. I've certainly felt that a number of times over the years, but I think we're all susceptible to it.

Christian Robinson

Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

I wanted to ask you a little bit about this to go back to what we were talking about regarding creativity and everyone having access to creativity. What's striking to me about your work and so we've talked about it before, as you've talked about creativity as healing right? You've talked about those creative moments as sources of healing. And, you know, for folks who are listening out there and who are wondering how is that the case, like how is creativity healing? And if so, how can I access my own creative forces and impulses? What advice would you have to give them?

Christian Robinson

I feel like whenever I'm creating, I'm working through something and I'm not even sure sometimes what I'm working through. It doesn't even occur to me or it doesn't make sense until later. But like, for instance, yeah, growing up as a child, feeling like I was lacking. Maybe I didn't have the home I wanted to live in or the family I wanted to be around. I knew I could draw that experience. I knew I could create a castle and imagine what life could be like. I could create a scene that I wanted to experience. I could give myself powers that I didn't feel I had. And so it's something empowering I think about that. It's yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well, you know, I want to I want to come back to the book "You Matter" again, because I mentioned I, I read that. I read that to my kids. And one of the reasons I found it so powerful is I think so many people walk around feeling like they're invisible, feeling unseen, feel like they don't matter, or feel like if they disappear tomorrow, no one would care. And what I really loved about your book is, is just how it focused on the fact that regardless of who you are, whether you're big over your small, regardless of what you look like, regardless of what you think about yourself, that you really and truly do matter. And I was curious, can you just explain to our audience about what inspired this story “You Matter.” I’m curious where you got the idea for the book?

Christian Robinson

Yeah, I had been a children's book illustrator for some time, illustrating other authors manuscripts and not really focusing on writing myself. So this is kind of one of the first books that I wrote and illustrated. And I had time to think about what is it that I, what sort of story do I want to tell. And to me, the message that kept coming up was simple, which is I just want to tell young people that they matter, and for reasons that they might not think, not because of, you know, how accomplished you are or how good your grades are or or how many trophies you've won, but simply just because you exist. And I wanted to do it in a way that kind of expressed it through, what am I trying to say? That didn't just say it, but but also showed it in some way. And I and I kind of had to rely on, well, what are the things in the world that make me feel like I matter? And so I kind of relied on what inspires me a lot, which is nature, science, history, and I think also what makes me feel like I matter is feeling connected. And so I kind of want to show how all these things throughout space and time are connected in some way. And how we're all kind of experiencing similar things Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well that, I mean, it was a very powerful book. And, you know, given that you see the world so beautifully through the eyes of kids, and I'm curious, do you have a sense of why so many young people these days feel like they don't matter? Because I do think your message is so important for them. But I'm curious if you have a sense of where that feeling of lack of not being enough may be coming from.

Christian Robinson

Yeah, Um hmm. That's an interesting question. So I would say I don't know if young people feel that they don't matter in today's world, versus a different time in this world. I don't know. But I knew that, I mean, I dedicated the book to to the kids who who don't know that. Who, who who aren't receiving that message. If I'm honest, I would say as a kid, yes, I didn't always feel like I was receiving that message. Even though I had an incredible foundation in my grandmother, she was working really hard, hustling to take care of all of us. And, yeah, having absent parents who aren't able to provide for you can make you feel like, am I not valuable and aren't I enough to be for you to want to like whatever it is be be involved in my life. So I knew that there there are kids who are not receiving that message. And and yeah. And and I honestly feel like that is the source of a lot of the problems in the world is us not feeling like we matter. And I think it kind of almost creates a destructive energy when you can't we don't feel that support and so yeah. Yes, I was going to deep. Yes.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

No, no, not at all. I think what you said is really profound and spot on. I do think it can be very destructive when people don't feel that they matter. And, especially for young people, I think it's so important that they know early on that they have value, that they do matter. You mentioned that there were times where even in your own childhood that you wondered if you mattered and how did you how did you deal with those moments and like where you where did you find the affirmation as a child that you mattered? Did it come from family members? Did it come from teachers? Where did you find that?

Christian Robinson

Yeah, many, many sources, I would say. You know, I'd say as many messages that it felt like maybe suggesting that I didn't, I would say there was many saying that there were. And it's tricky. You just kind of have to be in tune with it, which can be tricky. But like you just said, yeah, my grandmother, of course. But educators like, you know, I always had an amazing art teachers, who were so supportive. I had an art teacher in college, in high school, I mean, who who drove me to my college to, to, to see, you know, to see it, to check it out because my family was too busy; who put every, you know, competition and scholarship in front of me so that I could, like, apply and try to go to go pay for it. But also, I think I grew up in a time where there are a lot of great programs for young people. Sesame Street. Mr. Rogers. And I even I would even credit like Oprah, like, you know, I always believed her when she was telling us, you know, like you could do anything and that you just have to believe. And if you put your mind to it, I believed all those messages. I needed to believe them, that that I had some power in changing my circumstances. Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

That is that's really beautiful to hear. I'm thinking about that teacher who drove you to college. And what an incredible act of generosity and kindness, huh? I'm curious, are you still in touch with that teacher?

Christian Robinson

Oh, yeah. Miss Kim. Hey. Yeah, yeah, she's wonderful. Yeah, like, yeah, I yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

She must feel so proud to see all the beautiful things you're doing today.

Christian Robinson

I'm careful these days when it comes to, what am I trying to say? I think in our culture, we we we put so much value on what people can achieve. And lately, I've been recognizing how that is a whole other trauma I'm working through of, like, what I've accomplished as proof of my value. And I bought that belief that I had to do all these things to be valuable. And now I'm really trying to undo that and think, oh, just existing is fine. Just being is, is fine. Just talking and having a conversation, just being weird and, Just talking and having a conversation, just being weird and, you know, having a good meal. It's all I need to do to enjoy life and to exist. Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

That's really profound. And I think that message came across very clearly in your book, "You Matter" because it struck me when I read the last page and closed the book was that none of the reasons that you gave for why someone should think they mattered had to do with their accomplishments, what was on their resume, how popular they were, how much money they made, how many awards they won. That wasn't part of the book. And you were pointing more to our value being intrinsic and as opposed to being connected to extrinsic things that we acquire. I thought that was very powerful. And to hear you say that and to know that you're grappling with that, I think is powerful as well. I think a lot of us are, myself included, because I think even when we pursue positive things like impact, right? We think, okay, we want to help other people, but it gets complicated, right? Sometimes we're like, well, is that are the number of people I help then tied to my sense of self-worth? You know, so even when doing good things, I think it can be complicated if we tie our sense of self-worth to that. So, you know, I appreciate you sharing that. You know, just in exactly what you said and in so much of what you have written that it is so clear that values are at the heart of so much of your work, whether those values are around belonging or empathy or kindness or community. And you've talked a lot about your family and some of your experiences growing up. And I'm curious if you could say a little bit more about where those values come from, because they are so powerful and they come across so clearly in your work.

Christian Robinson

Yeah. I think my grandmother, of course, instilled all those values in me. There's a book I illustrated, "Last Stop On Market Street," written by Matt de la Peña and it's very much about like, yeah, a grandmother kind of reminding her grandson about what he already has and not looking over there and wanting all these different things. And I would say that was definitely a message that I received as a kid that that yeah, it it's not what you have. It's what you do with it. I would say faith played a role as well. I didn't really grow up like in the church or anything like this, but I know my grandmother did. And she definitely instilled those values on us as well, like the power of, yeah, faith and believing and looking beyond your own experience, seeing things from a bigger perspective, how we're all connected what things that, yeah, connect us rather than separate us. Hmm. Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

You've mentioned your grandmother a few times. She sounds like a really pivotal figure in your life, and it sounds like she shaped so much of how you look at the world and how you look at yourself. Could you say a little bit more about your grandmother? Tell us a little bit about her story and what was she like?

Christian Robinson

Oh, she is a character. Yeah, she is. She is everything to me. She was a foundation. She was a rock, as they say. So I would say, hmm, she is like, how would I describe her? She's a force. She is she's kind of the most like I can leave my grandmother and, like, anywhere and, like, come back in 15 minutes and somehow she's talking to everyone in the room. Like, that's just who she is. Like, we yeah, we would take the bus growing up everywhere, and she she, like, just knows everyone on the bus somehow. Every bus driver, she, before COVID, she was working as, like a like a like a what do you call that person, the concierge? Like the person who had a like a Hollywood tour place. She was the person telling people where to go to get the bus to go see the Hollywood sign or the Walk of Fame. And so she just loves people. She loves socializing. Yeah. She knows how to make something out of nothing. Yeah. She she's also the type that we might not have even realized we were poor because just the way she carried herself. There is a lot of pride and uh, dignity and how she carried herself.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well, she sounds like an incredible woman and like, somebody who raised you really, really well. So I'm so glad you had her in her life. I'm so glad you had her in your life rather. You know, I want to ask you about fun for a minute, Christian, because fun. I feel like it crops up a lot in your work. And, in fact, you have a website called The Art of Fun, and you talk a lot about the importance of enjoying the process and and allowing fun to sort of percolate through through your process in your work. I think for a lot of people over the last two years in particular, with the weight of the pandemic on them, it's felt to many people that fun and joy have been perhaps squeezed out of our life, more than for than prior to the pandemic. I'm curious, as we, you know, still manage the ongoing pandemic, and we certainly hope that we are coming to the end of that journey. But do you have any any advice or lessons that you think people can draw from your work or your philosophy about how to find joy in their process?

Christian Robinson

For whatever reason, I came to some conclusion a while ago that, like, if I'm not enjoying what I'm doing, then what am I doing it for? And The Art of Fun. Yeah, that's my, my website. And also, like, my most of my social media handles that came from, you know, the art of means, the mastery of a skill, the art of cooking, the art of archery or whatever. So the art of fun for me is just mastering, like you said, enjoying the process and that's what I try to do in my work. And, and even though a lot of the books I work on, I think are when I try, I say I gravitate towards the stories that are really honest with young people and and kind of aren't afraid to go into the heavier, more challenging topics. But I always like to do it in a way that is fun and playful. And I think also I'm inspired by Einstein. His quote, I don't know if Einstein said this, I don't know who said it, but it's something like, "Play is the highest form of experimentation." Basically, like, I, I, what keeps me inspired is always trying new things and exploring and just seeing what happens and being open to making mistakes. That's a big thing. I always tell young people is like, just make a mistake because that, that will be you'll learn so much more. Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well, so many of these lessons and messages for young people, I think are applicable to to older people as well, to adults. So I think this is incredibly valuable. You know, as we as we bring our conversation to a close, Christian, I want to ask you about what you think we as adults can take from kids. Like what wisdom can we glean from how they live their lives, how they encounter their world?

Christian Robinson

I would say something I've learned from kids or something I've observed is just how how well they respond to honesty. I keep bringing up the word honesty, but like, for instance, when I used to first come out into the like and read books and do book presentations at like festivals and libraries, I was really nervous and I almost thought I had to put on a character to be in front of kids, but I quickly learned that they didn't respond well to that. Kids are amazing B.S. detectors and that the moment I was just myself, it opened up the space and that kids also felt the freedom to just be themselves and and and that's what they want to get to know. They just want to connect. They would raise their hands. And the first question they'd ask: Are you rich? Are you married? Do you have kids? Do you have a house? And so I like to just be open and honest with kids. And and I think, yeah, that's how I kind of approach working with them. And and I think that is what we can learn from them is that honesty and that vulnerability. Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

I love that honesty and vulnerability. You're like as a dad of two small kids, I couldn't agree with you more. That's those are the qualities they display even when it makes those around them uncomfortable at times. But it's one of their gifts. You know, a couple of a sort of quickfire questions I want to ask you. You know, kids, we know, can be some of our toughest critics. So what's some of the most memorable feedback that you've gotten from a young reader?

Christian Robinson

Oh, oh, there's too many I would say, oh, this is a funny one. I have this book. It's called “Another.” And it's basically about this girl and her cat going into a like a portal into another dimension where they meet like other kids and meet their another and at the end of the reading, this one kid raises her hand and goes, I liked your story. I like that, he said, I liked your story. It had a lot of holes in it. Yeah. And all the adults in the room were laughing and and I was like, well, I don't know if it had, yeah, it did have portals. I wouldn't say it had holes. It was a pretty solid story. Anyway, that that was that was what came to my mind.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Yes. Oh, my gosh. I'm going to ask you for some personal advice. I understand you're a vegetarian. Do you have any advice for how I can convince my kids to more vegetables.

Christian Robinson

Sauce.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Sauce. I like that.

Christian Robinson

Sauce is the secret. Just put delicious sauces: ranch, barbecue on everything. Yes.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

I love it. I'm having trouble with one of my kids in particular getting them to eat vegetables so I'm going to take that to heart. And Baldwin, tell us about Baldwin and I know Baldwin is your beloved rescue greyhound. How is he part of your process for writing and drawing.

Christian Robinson

Huh? Well, and in some ways, Baldwin keeps me moving. Like, I'm looking at him right now. He's actually coming over. When when I have to when I need a break, he reminds me that I need to take a break and I need to go for a walk. So again, like some of my most inspired moments are the walks that I have with him. Come on, he's getting old now.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

He's kind of your coauthor, is what you’re saying.

Christian Robinson

Yeah. Let's don't give him too much credit, but, yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Oh, I see him now. Oh, Baldwin, oh you look so cute.

Christian Robinson

Yeah. Hello, hello, hello, hello. OK, ok. OK.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well, Christian, I've really enjoyed this conversation. I'm leaving this feeling like I'm looking at the world with more hope and looking at my kids, at all kids, with even greater wonder, recognizing how much they have to teach us. You know, I know a lot of people look at the world today, and they they read the headlines in the papers. They see all the things that we have to worry about with regard to the future. And they wonder, is the future dark? Is there any hope? But when you think about the time ahead of us and the world we're living in, what gives you hope right now?

Christian Robinson

Oooh, so much. I, I know it's also looking kind of bleak. I'll be honest. But there's also a lot of hope because, I mean, using my own personal experience, all the things that felt like setbacks to me were my stepping stones. All the things that felt impossible to surmount, helped develop my superpowers, right? Not having, forced me to be creative with what I did have. And so I'm curious to see what young people are going to do with the limitations, with the challenges that are being placed in front of them. And I'm inspired because when have we seen young people be so involved with what's going on in the world wanting to address climate change and so many of the social issues that are coming up? You you know, the adults are the ones who seem to be confused and in so it's it's really, I'm inspired. Yeah.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

That's so wonderful to hear. Well, I'm certainly inspired by you. And I'm I find your work to be so hopeful. You truly are a treasure, Christian. And thank you so much for sharing your gifts with the world and for sharing your story with me today. It was really wonderful to have this chance to talk together.

Christian Robinson

It was my pleasure, Vivek, Dr. Murthy. Yeah. Thank you for creating the space and offering me time to share.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Before I leave you, could we, I would love it if you, If you could read your book, "You Matter." That would be wonderful. Is that OK, Christian?

Christian Robinson

All right, here it is. OK. I haven't done this in a while. I’m rusty. All right, so “You Matter,” by me. So, our story begins with these kids and a parachute, on the jacket. And now my dog is whining, saying it's time for his walk. And then we open up to this title page, and we see actually, no, we skipped a page. On the end pages, we see those kids, with that parachute, and we’re zooming out to the city, and we zoomed out even further. And now we're in space and there are stars. And now our story begins. The small stuff, too small to see. We see a girl, and she's looking through a microscope. Those who swim with the tide and those who don't. You see the one who's not swimming with the tide, going his own way or her way. The first to go and the last. You matter. And we see this this little amphibious creature. They're the last one out of the water. When everyone thinks you're a pest. Have you ever felt that way before? Like you're being a pest? Everyone was saying, go away, shoo, like this little mosquito? OK, Baldwin, it's story time, Baldwin. I know it's exciting. When something is just out of reach. And then we see this T-Rex who just got bit by that mosquito, and he has a bump on his tail and his little T-Rex arms can't reach it. When everyone is too busy to help, you matter. Has that ever happened before? Everyone is just too busy doing their own things, not paying attention to you? What do you think they're, why do you think they're being what you think they're running away from? Why are they so busy? If you fall down, and we see this giant rock falling down to earth. If you have to start all over again and there's the earth. Even if you're really gassy. The sun is really gassy. I know a few of you too are. It's OK. You matter. Sometimes home is far away and we see a astronaut, right, and they're looking down at earth. So their home is really far away. Sometimes someone you love says goodbye. Has that ever happened before? You have to say goodbye to someone. Who do you think had to say goodbye? Was it the boy with the rocketship? Or the girl on the phone? Or maybe the two cats? Sometimes you feel lost and alone, but you matter. If you look really closely we see two kids on one side of the street and on the other side we see a little dog who does not have an owner. Maybe the dog is lost. Old and young. We see some old, old guys feeding some birds on the on a park bench. But look, we all see those kids and now they have that dog with them. The first to go and the last. We see some some pigeons eating some bird seeds. Some looks like that one might be the last one. The small stuff, too small to see. We'll see the little ants. You matter. And now we're kind of back where we started looking out over a city. And that is the story of "You Matter."

Dr. Vivek Murthy

That is beautiful, Christian. Thank you so much.

Christian Robinson

Thank you.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Thank you for doing that.

Christian Robinson

My pleasure.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

And it’s even, even better and richer when you read it. So I'm glad that you did that. So I appreciate it. Well, listen, we will let you take Baldwin for a walk. I know he's been asking, but thank you again for joining me today on House Calls, Christian, and for all the beautiful work that you put out into the world. Very grateful for you.

Christian Robinson

Awesome. Thank you.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Thanks for joining this conversation with Christian Robinson. Join me for the next episode of House Calls with Dr. Vivek Murthy. Wishing you all health and happiness.