Monday, January 22, 2007

Nothing, I just want to be sure of you

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes Piglet?"
"Nothing" said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. I just wanted to be sure of you."
A. A. Milne

There is a lot of wisdom to be gleaned from children's books. This snippet from this Winnie the Pooh story is among my favorites. While I was not introduced to Winnie the Pooh as a child, I think that it was because I have appreciated Pooh's simplemindedness, humor and wisdom more as an adult.

Another of my favorite stories is Oscar Wilde's, "The Selfish Giant". I had not heard that story until I was an adult attending a Palm Sunday vesper service. The minister didn't read from the scriptures, in fact she pulled up a short stool, as though she were planning to read to a group of young children sitting on the floor at her feet (remember the librarian doing that when you were a kid?). There were no children in this case. She read the story directly from an aged copy of the book and when finished she simply closed the book and without ceremony she looked across the small group and said to us, "now you go and figure it out." A benediction like I've never heard before.

Milne's wisdom and that of Mr. Wilde remind us of simple virtues that should be instilled in children. What's more, these virtues should be instilled in adults. We have missed or forgotten so many of these lessons along the path.

Thinking of the scene between Piglet and Pooh, I believe that we have all experienced it, we have been in a position along the path, just like Pooh and Piglet where we were walking and had the very thought that Piglet had, I just need for someone to know that I'm here. I need to remind them in some quite way that I am here! We don't want fanfare, we don't need fireworks, we just need someone to say to us, I'm right here for you Piglet. Words don't always have to be involved, sometimes just taking a hand is plenty. Fears can be allayed this way, but what's more we can simply feel a presence that is warmth. "Nothing, I just wanted to be sure of you." That statement by Piglet was also a silent statement by Pooh, he needed to know that Piglet was there as much as Piglet needed to know that Pooh was there.

I've done this very thing all through my life. When I was a little kid and my family would trek to St. Mary's, Ohio to see my Aunt Lucretta and Uncle Vernon, I could not sit close enough to her. Be it on the sofa burrowed in next to her or at her hip in the kitchen. My sister Georgia was doing the same thing on the other side. Georgia would do the same with Uncle Vernon, I wasn't as close to him. I did the same thing with my parents. Sometimes I would come to them while they watched television and I would simply sit between their legs on the floor or I would put my head on their knee. Usually there was a pat on the head, but what I really was saying by my actions were the very words that Piglet used, "Nothing, I just wanted to be sure of you." Words were rarely shared in these situations, it was the touch or the closeness that was the important part.
When I was older, I couldn't do these things any longer. I was too big and it just wasn't as acceptable for a teenager to do such things. But I do remember a trip to Missouri where my Aunt and Uncle moved after their retirement. Aunt Lucretta and I walked through a flea market and held hands. "Nothing, I just wanted to be sure of you." I would gladly do these very things today, too old or not to sit too close, or put my head on their knee or hold hands in a flea market or anywhere else for that matter.

I often think of a man who has met me on life's path several times. He is a man of power in the community, a leader of many people, respected by legions, recognized by a hierarchy that reaches all the way to the seat of Peter. This man is a man of few words at times. He says that he does better between himself and one person than he does a crowd. When we have met on the path he has always been quick to take my hand, place his other on the back of it and shake my hand, one of the most compelling handshakes I have ever known from another human being. There is an electricity in his handshake, there is a holiness about it. He remembers my name, though he doesn't see me often and in that very simple custom of the handshake I know that he is saying, "Nothing, I just wanted to be sure of you." I know that he has felt this very same way when he has kissed the fisherman's ring. I don't think that he finds himself in a position of adoration there, but I believe that maybe, just maybe, he is saying those very words of Piglet to someone who carries great authority and power in the world, because after all in the wisdom of Pooh we find these words:

"...Just because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo."
Pooh's Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne


Blogger Ladyblue said...

This is amazing. Great wisdom in simple words.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

If you like these, check out Benjamin Hoff's "The Tao of Pooh". Awesome book.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Indra Priyadharshini said...

My teacher always say "children's books have a lot things to learn"
I completely agree... nice post :)

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