LESSONS LEARNED—AND UNLEARNED
Some of my favorite kid-time stories were “The Three Little Pigs,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and, probably the one I liked best, “The Little Red Hen.”
The Little Red Hen had several chicks, and in order to provide food for them (this is a nursery story, remember) she had to plant the wheat, cultivate the wheat, harvest the wheat, grind it into flour, and then bake bread. Her requests (always politely made, as I recall) for help with each of these tasks met with refusals from the other inhabitants of the barn yard.
“Not I,” said the Dog.
“Not I,” said the Cat.
“Not I,” said the Rat.
And so on.
“Then I’ll do it myself,” said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
This goes on and on, through all the steps from planting wheat to fresh-baked loaf. (Such a story is guaranteed to keep a child interested for quite a long time. And, of course, out of mischief.)
Finally—we come to the best part: The Little Red Hen takes the fragrant loaf of bread out of her oven and says, “Who will help me eat the bread?”
Can you guess? Everybody! “I will!” said the Dog. “I will!” said the Cat. And on through all the animals.
The Little Red Hen reminds them that they did nothing to help plant the wheat, grind the meal, knead the dough. . . .
“My chicks and I will eat the bread,” said the Little Red Hen. And they did.
The Lesson Learned—at least, I suppose this is the intention of the author—is that in order to enjoy things in life, we must be willing to put in some effort ourselves.
Okay, I learned that part.
But I also learned another lesson: If no one will help you, then do it yourself.
And I do. I have. Through most of my life.
This is natural for an only child. No siblings to help me build a tree house; parents with no extra time to teach me how to sew or bake a cake. Often, no neighbors—kids or otherwise—or extended family nearby to fill in for parents fully occupied in keeping the home going.
So, I did it myself.
The Lesson Unlearned, for me, is to allow others to do things for me.
A few years ago my son confided that his willingness to do a number of things in his church meant that others didn’t volunteer. Or didn’t learn to do that task. As he put it, “Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean that I ought to do it.”
I realized that I believed that also, and had, in fact, already stopped doing some things in order for others to do them.
The next step: Let people do things for me. Hmm, that’s not so easy. But I’m working on it.
Today I will have a handyman and his helper come over to move heavy objects from my living room—furniture, boxes of fabric in large plastic totes, and a few other weighty items. When they leave, I can begin using my daughter’s carpet cleaner on the living room floor. When that dries, in a day or so, I’ll have the helpers come back to move dining room furniture, etc. to the living room area, so I can clean that carpet.
I used to be able to do all the preparation, the furniture moving, and the cleaning. And I did. Now I’m willing to hire others to do those things for me.
This Little Red Hen has learned when to say, “I need your help. Will you help me?” And if the first person declines, well, there’s always someone else who might say yes.
Caregivers have become Very Important People in our culture. They come in all shapes, sizes, and capacities. I know two women who are caregivers for their handicapped husbands. Both have been married many years, and there is a sense of joy and peace in their lives that is obvious to those of us who know them. Other adults care for their adult children with disabilities or aging parents.
Still other caregivers are the parents or grandparents (even great-grandparents) of school-age children. And nursery school teachers, child care personnel, teachers in public and private schools, Sunday School teachers.
Some caregivers are so obvious, we might forget about them—clergy, medical personnel, counselors and therapists.
Make a list of people who are caregivers in your family, or neighborhood, or community. Then give thanks for them. Or thank them in person.
Today I celebrate those people who give of themselves to spend time and energy for others.
And I celebrate Life Lessons—both learned and unlearned—that help us accept help when we need it. We might become better helpers ourselves, once we get the hang of it.