When I went to a book sale a few months back, I found a sizable collection of beautiful hardcover classics for a whopping total of $10. Just holding books like that, and having them on my shelves, makes me want to dive right in! I've been trying to read the classics lately (I'm on my final Jane Austen novel right now!!!!). Part of my plan is to have one adult work of classic literature, and one children's work of classic literature going at the same time. So, right now, I'm in the middle of Jane Austen's Persuasion and...Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney. If you haven't read it before, the basic premise of the book is that the Pepper Family - made up of the five Pepper children - are being raised by their mother in a little brown house. Times are hard for the Pepper children, but that doesn't stop them from being filled with the kind of joy that can't help but bubble up and spread to others. It's for that reason that I think that Mrs. Pepper has some real wisdom to share with us...
1. Even when they have very little, the children know how to find something to be grateful for.
Polly Pepper and her siblings - Ben, Joel, Davie, and the beloved Phronsie - have very little by anyone's standards. But, what they do have, they try to be grateful for. That doesn't mean that they don't complain - but they encourage each other to have a grateful attitude. Throughout the book, we see the various material struggles of the family, and the ways that friends step in to help them - and it is so beautiful to see how grateful the dear Peppers are for what their friends do for them.
2. They have a strong sibling bond.
Their sibling bond is actually pretty amazing. Polly goes to visit a friend in another town at one point, and one of her younger siblings misses her so much that the child is willing to leave her own mother, just to be with Polly. All the children treat Phronsie (the youngest girl) with absolute tenderness, and they way they treat her reminds me to be more patient with my own 4-year old. When something good happens for one of them, the others aren't jealous, but rather genuinely happy for the good fortune of that sibling. And when one of the siblings is sick or discouraged, the others rush in with care and concern. They have moments of disagreement, just like any siblings, but their affection and concern for each other spills off the pages.
3. They are generous and selfless.
There are so many instances where the Peppers take what little they have, and give it to someone else in order to bring joy. To thank a friend, they bake cakes with some of the few prized raisins in the house - just to make their friend happy. The eldest two children devote months to planning a Christmas surprise for their younger siblings, and they're so happy to be planning something for the little ones, that they genuinely don't mind the thought of getting nothing themselves. They just receive so much joy from giving to others.
4. They have contagious joy.
One of my favorite passages in the book was when a new friend's grumpy father first meets the adorable Phronsie. She is so bubbling over with joy, that it wears away at his grumpy exterior almost instantaneously. Their friend spends as much time as he can at their "little brown house" because just being around them fills him with so much joy. They don't sit around, moping about they don't have. They are just happy to have each other, and the love of family and friends. They know the secret to true joy is not in material possessions, but in the sharing of love.
5. They have a deep love and respect for their mother.
We don't really know many details about when their father passed away, so it isn't possible to say what their relationship with him was like. We are left to observe their relationship with their hard-working, tireless mother. All five little ones love her so deeply, and want her happiness more than anything. They are grateful for what she does for them, and happy just to have her around. At every opportunity, they do what they can to help her, and to show her that they are thinking about her. They want so badly to make her life easier, but they don't help her out of guilt. Rather, they just want to make sure that their poor mother gets a break sometimes! The honor they show her, and the affection they have for her, is simply beautiful
I don't have any Peppers...but I have two little cuties who are hopefully on their way to being those sort of children. How about a peek at what me and Maria wore this Sunday?
Therese finally caught the plague that's been going around, so Andrew and I tag teamed Mass, and this little girl tagged along to two Masses on Sunday. Can't you see her halo?
(Linking up to the ladies of Fine Linen and Purple.)