Monday, October 29, 2012

Before They Push Their Boats from the Safe Shore

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Earlier today, Miss Priss finished reading Jack and Jill, by Louisa May Alcott, and she quite enjoyed it. At the end, she called me into the family room, where she was curled up under a blanket on the couch, to read aloud to me the last paragraph. We both thought it was lovely and wanted to share it with you. Perhaps you'll be inspired to add this book to your children's reading list.

There are many such boys and girls, full of high hopes, lovely possibilities, and earnest plans, pausing a moment before they push their little boats from the safe shore. Let those who launch them see to it that they have good health to man the oars, good education for ballast, and good principles as pilots to guide them as they voyage down an ever-widening river to the sea.

Words both wise and true, don't you think?

I have been considering today that the second sentence ought to be my mission statement, since I serve as both parent and teacher. As we all know it is far too easy to get turned aside by the minutiae of life. Often, I allow the tricky trivialities to have too much power in the day to day. These little tempests in teacups are tricky because they seem important -- critical, even -- at the time, but are mere and momentary distractions, blips in the big picture.

If I reduce down to the essentials those things I want my children to carry with them when they push their boats into the stream, it comes to this:

  • Your faith is not only the foundation of your life, it is the structural support. Stand firm in its truth.
  • Your education is a lifelong pursuit. Never stop learning.
  • Your principles define your character. Strive to be Christ-like in all you do.

But if I say all this and don't live it myself, then all my words are like chaff in the wind. Do I live like my faith is the structural support in my life? Do I pursue my own education? Do I exemplify Christ in my life? My answers, as always, tend to be, Not as much as I want to. Not as much as I need to.

How much better we'd all be if I focused on the essentials and not the ephemera; if I talked less and lived more; and if I welcomed in grace and ushered out the useless pursuit of perfection.

What a blessing that would be.


  1. A wonderful paragraph! I've never read that book, but perhaps I should borrow it from the library!

  2. I've never read that book of Wilder's - that's a wonderful closing. I would suggest, Ellen, that you are actually extending your own education, and living your values and your beliefs, enormously in the work you are doing as a teacher and a parent.

  3. I've read that book, and I love it! What a great paragraph to remember as we continue on this journey. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  4. That paragraph is just so beautifully written! Thanks so much for sharing. I loved how your daughter thought it must be shared. You have raised an aficionado of fine writing!
    Thanks for sharing your post at NOBH.

  5. Thanks for sharing this and for making me think. I haven't read the book, but I think it will be added to my list.


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