Dear, Walnut Grove….can we be friends? neighbors?

Child  #4 (number coding has been my posting practice for my offspring on Facebook..i’ll continue it here) unearthed a long-lost and forgotten copy of  Little House on the Prairie. i have a warm spot in my heart for this show and wanted to share it with the kids. Children #s 2, 3 and 4 were not enthusiastic about starting the series (#s 5 and 6 are still pretty malleable and #1 would have hated it but she’s away at college) so i reached deeply into the-trusty-mom-bag-o-tricks and bribed them with Ajiaco soup (if you have not had this soup, here is a recipe. If you are a parent and have never bribed…i don’t believe you).

The far-from-insignificant other, who happens to be a licensed psychotherapist, told me once that bribery can be re-framed as positive reinforcement…i LOVE a re-frame that works in my favor. As they sat and slurped their soup, i entered into the show with an adult lens for the first time. think that i wanted to share this because there was something that felt so good about watching this family highlight what is best about our human nature. i probably want the not-so-subtle messaging to rub off onto our offspring or to at least echo some of the better things we have tried to teach them. The show is sort of corny and has lots of historical holes, but it served its purpose this evening, and i like it…so stop rolling your eyes….

harvest1

i forgot how Laura shared a gem of wisdom at the end of the show…this one was perfect… “That day, Pa harvested a crop he didn’t know he had planted…a harvest of friends.”

i can see where the seeds of relationships have been planted throughout my life. Most have been tested by all sorts of conditions, varied levels of attention, and have been transplanted over and over again as i have moved and grown. Some friendships have withered and died…The ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ messaging has been loud and clear ever since i was very little and that was often tied to lessons about being a good friend.

i am graced with an abundance of true-rooted-strong-healthy friendships and a long list of fantastic neighbors from the many places i have lived. This is not because i have been a perfect friend or neighbor. Truthfully, there have been many times when i was a terrible friend, two-faced, gossipy, manipulative, dishonest, selfish, fake, weak, unreliable, insensitive, and on and on… most of my friendships have been afforded to me because of the luxury of a naturally outgoing personality, a privileged position in society, and many more circumstances that were beyond my control.

i want to remind my kids to think of the un-friended or the under-friended as well as the ways to nurture friendships and to think of everyone as a neighbor. In this episode, Pa is a stranger in his community with no money, no position, no references. He struggles. He barely escapes ruin. His salvation is, as Scarlett O’Hara would say, the kindness of strangers. The men-folk of Walnut Grove live in a nice little packaged town where they see into the windows of each other’s lives and can see each other’s virtues closely enough to want to jump in and involve themselves during times of struggle. Planting friendships and being neighborly is far easier in this make-believe world.

Back here,

     in real-life,

          we are kept at a distance from each other by our cars, our culture, our garages, our houses, our affiliations, our fences, our fears, our prejudices, our insecurities…Mostly, our personal struggles go unnoticed and we are encouraged to keep them to ourselves so that we don’t appear weak or vulnerable.

i can promise you that the deepest friendships and greatest neighborly-relations were grown the most when i was brave enough to share my weakness. They grew when i left my door open, set aside my preconceived notions, took risks.

My capacity to be friend and neighbor has also swelled up in the grace-filled moments when i stopped for a stranger who seemed to be struggling, reminded myself that we all have far more in common than not, and tried to love my neighbor well. Since i will never really live in Walnut Grove with the Ingalls clan, i need to be intentional about planting seeds of friendship-neighborship right here, right now. i hope my kids will too…

Let’s do it together!

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