Friday, August 17, 2012


My daughters and I just finished reading the book, Charlotte's Web.  If you haven't read this American classic, I highly recommend it.  It's beautiful, charming, and has a lot of life lessons to impart to small, impressionable children.

The tale takes us into the life of a school-aged girl named Fern; a runt pig she saves from slaughter and the story's main character, Wilbur; and his best friend, a spider, who saves his life: Charlotte.  Learning that Wilbur will one day be turned into bacon for the farm's human inhabitants, Charlotte comes up with a plan to save Wilbur's life.   She carefully spins webs with descriptors that will make the farm owners and eventually their larger community take a second look at Wilbur before taking his life.

One of the words Charlotte uses in her web to describe Wilbur is humble.  Norah asked me what humble meant.  And, actually, the word humble is in an old hymn (her favorite lullaby) that Lucas sings to her every night before bed.  The book describes humble as "not proud," and as "low to the ground."  Norah wondered, "how could that be good?"  I explained to her that pride meant thinking that you're better than others, and in that way, it was good to be humble.  To recognize that we are each small, that we need others, and that even our best qualities are gifts and not commodities,  is so, so important.  It was interesting to me, though, that at first Norah couldn't see what would be good about being "not proud."

A friend on Facebook posted today that watching Honey Boo Boo Child on TLC made her feel better about herself as a mother.  Other moms commented below her post, "I feel like the best mom when I watch that show" and hailed all kinds of other insults at the mom depicted on it.  I  admit, I often watch Suze Orman or Supernanny for the same reasons.  I'm not so bad, I'll think to myself.   I'm so much better with our family's finances.  My kids are WAY better than those brats.  Instead of tuning into those hurting around me- I'm simply comparing myself and using their grief as a stepping stone to my own inflated sense of self importance. 

What I find most interesting about Charlotte's assessment of Wilbur in the book, is that SHE is the one who is humble.  Wilbur is seen as the miracle among the community, but it's really Charlotte who is performing that miracle.  But never once in the book is she looking for credit, some kind of gold star, or blue ribbon.  She is motivated by love and true friendship.  She really sees him as those qualities.  She even enlists the help of other animals (like a lowly rat named Templeton) to help her accomplish her mission.   Even the rat, who is only motivated by his own desires in the story, understands that his survival depends on Wilbur

True humility means recognizing our interdependence.  It means recognizing that others have helped us to have all we have, and that we in turn, should do the same.  That's really one of the core messages of Charlotte's Web, and I want it to be one of the core challenges of my life as well. 

"Comparison is the thief of joy." -Theodore Roosevelt

How do you compare yourself to others?  Do you struggle with pride?  Do you feel it affects your relationships?  What does humility mean to you and what place does it have in building relationships? Community?

No comments:

Post a Comment