It was the worst day of my professional life.
My publisher was shutting down, and we had no idea if another publisher would take over my contract. In addition, my second novel hadn’t sold as well as the first. It was all so terrifying to me. I was racked with fear, feeling like I was watching my career deteriorate.
But as I shared my fears with my mother, her reaction was instantaneous. She said eight words I’d never forget: “I’d love you if you were a garbageman.”
She wasn’t taking a crack at garbagemen (her brothermy unclewas a garbageman). She was just saying that whether I was the King of England or whatever my job was, she loved me. Best of all, she hadn’t practiced her reaction. It was just her honest feelings at that moment. But those eight simple words are still the ones I use to fight so many of my fears.
To this day, every day that I sit down to write, I say those words to myself—“I’d love you if you were a garbageman”—soaking in the purity and selflessness of that love from my mother.
A few years ago, my mom passed away from breast cancer. But her lessons set me on the path of my current project, a line of illustrated children's books I did to teach strength to my own children. The first two are I Am Amelia Earheart and I Am Abraham Lincoln. In six months, we'll do I Am Rosa Parks.
But for me, this isn't just a book series. It's my dream for my own daughter. My dream for my sons. My dream for all of us who need to see the power and potential in each of us.
This series was born because I was tired of my daughter thinking that reality TV stars and loud-mouthed sports players were heroes. I tell my kids all the time: That’s fame. Fame is different than being a hero. I wanted my kids to see real heroes...and real people no different than themselves. For that reason, each book tells the story of the hero when THEY were a kid. We see them as children. So it's not just Amelia Earhart and Abraham Lincoln being famous -- it's them being just like us.
Look around. We live in a world that is starving for heroes. This is our solution. And it was the same solution my mother taught me with her eight words: the power of an ordinary person.
Like my mother, whose words I can proudly repeat to my kids: “Now you’ll understand how I love you.”
Brad Meltzer is a bestselling thriller writer and the host of the History Channel TV show, Brad Meltzer’s Decoded. His new children’s books, I Am Amelia Earhart and I Am Abraham Lincoln, are on sale in bookstores everywhere.