“The real things haven't changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.”
“We'd never get anything fixed to suit us if we waited for things to suit us before we started.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder
There’s a reason why
Little House on the Prairie lasted for ten seasons. Although the last Little
House episode was aired February 6, 1985, its lessons are timeless and
applicable even today. I know it was in my generation and that of my children
who were raised watching Little House and The Andy Griffith Show.
those who say that television today reflects what society tolerates and it’s
true, but media could be a positive force of influence if it wanted to be. The
difference, in my opinion, is that while television now might reflect “today’s
norms”, the messages in the older shows are not temporal; they are based on timeless
Even when times change, the principles involved still work. Therefore, the messages, in some mysterious way, help to form who you are and how you view the world. Today I learned a lesson that helped me to realize how much truth there is in the words of Laura Ingalls: Real things don’t change.
While shopping in the grocery store, I struck up a conversation with an older woman. She was bent over, and when she saw me reaching for something, immediately excused herself and apologized for being in my way. I told her she wasn’t in my way at all and that I was “just looking”. We were on the baking aisle, and before long we were talking about sugar and chocolate.
She’s a diabetic and
misses being able to eat sweets, but cheats now and then because she just
craves it. But her health suffers and it makes her afraid. I told her a little recipe to help with those
cravings that includes chocolate, but is made with artificial sugar. The
conversation didn’t last long, but apparently had a greater impact than I could
have imagined. We both said, “Nice talking to you” but as we were waving each
other on, a strange thing happened. She stopped, turned her head and added,
“Thanks for the conversation. There aren’t many people who take the time to talk”.
Thanks for the conversation? What? All I could think of was that most likely she gets passed by a lot. People oftentimes judge a person by their looks and never give another human being a second thought. She was old, hunched over, and barely looked at me when she spoke. Her skin looked well worn. For a moment, I thought of the story of The Velveteen Rabbit who became "real" because of the love of a child. But, fast forward to the television age and my thoughts turned to a long ago episode of Little House where an old man, Amos Pike, came under the judgment of others and could have died a lonely, broken old man had it not been for a little girl taking the time to talk before she judged.
The old man came into Oelson’s store and Harriett Oleson "screeched" for everyone to run because,
“That old man is a maniac”!
Everybody took cover, except for Mr. Oleson, who with a tender heart, served the man. He lived in a house that they called “haunted”. No one dared go near it. Laura accidentally met him one day while on a dare from Nellie Oleson to touch the old “haunted” house.
Laura developed a quick friendship with Mr. Pike, having taken the advice of her parents, loving the man before judging him. Amazing the doors that attitude will open! Many people only love those that look like them, or believe like them. They put conditions on their attention. But some, choose the path less followed, and peek inside the door.
Once the friendship blossomed and Laura found out the truth about what had happened to the old man’s wife (she died), she felt that in order to heal, he had to face the truth. He was in denial, which is what had made him bitter and unreachable. She told him, and, initially, he rejected her.
Laura, upset, went to her father and poured out her feelings of anger at herself for having told Mr. Pike that his wife died. She felt that she had done the wrong thing because now, it seemed that he hurt more than before.
Pa reassured Laura when he said,
“Well, Halfpint, the more you love, the more you hurt. Mr. Pike must have loved Mrs. Lily an awful lot."
For Laura, she did all the right things. She came in, met him right where he was, and while she picked up a broom and worked with him to help clean his house, she let him talk. The moment came when it was time for him to confront his grief, and Laura did the courageous thing: she told him the truth as lovingly as she could. Then, she did the best possible thing: Laura simply sat with him and let him cry. Had she not helped him confront his grief, he never would have found healing and a newness of life to help him move forward.
In counseling those that grieve, the best advice is not what most of us think is helpful. Sometimes we do more damage than good with our unsolicited advice. The best counsel is this:
- Acknowledge the loss; don’t avoid mentioning the person’s name.
- Don’t minimize their pain.
- Let them know you care. For example: "I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care."
- Do not give unsolicited advice. Offer companionship.
- Offer practical help. Maybe say, “Tell me what I can do for you”.
- Let them talk about it in their own way.
- Sit in silence and let them work through it.
There are a lot of hurting people out there, and I believe that, if we are alive and breathing, we have an obligation to love others. Our society has become exceedingly self-centered, and we wonder why society has so many ills. We should practice daily the adage, “Tell me what I can do for you?”
For Laura, she picked up a broom and began working side by side to help her new friend clean his dusty house. Then, when the time was right, she picked up an allegorical broom and began helping her new friend to clean out unseen cobwebs from his heart. I’m sure that if Laura lived in our day and time, it wouldn’t be unusual at all for her to hear the words, “Thanks for the conversation” in a modern grocery store aisle.
And thank you, Laura, for the timeless messages that serve as a reminder for the rest of us that, sure enough,
“We'd never get anything fixed to suit us if we waited for things to suit us before we started."
Now if today’s modern television shows banked on that philosophy, imagine how different the “norms” would be. Who knows what would happen to society if more people were influenced to pick up an allegorical broom and have the courage to help clean out a few cobwebs on the baking aisle. And the best part is, they won't be looking for it as they will simply be reacting out of the person they've become: A "real" person.
Alas, we can't do much
about the name calling, judgmental Mrs. Oelson's of the world, but if we turn
our back on that for a moment and dare to "peek inside the door" of
another heart, we might find out with Laura, that in keeping with the real
things that matter, they really do change - they change us.