Taking a break from the first revision of my book, Wine Within Your Comfort Zone, has given me time to think about the intensity of the writing process. While I have experienced some discouraging thoughts, frustrating moments and often felt like giving up, I continued to write.
I am reminded of a story first written in 1930 by Watty Piper. The Little Engine That Could, is a story about optimism and hard work.
A Happy Little Train is carrying wonderful toys and treats to little boys and girls on the other side of a mountain. Half way through her journey, the Happy Little Train breaks down and can go no further. Frustrated and concerned, she wonders, “What will the little boys and girls do without all the wonderful things I have for them?”
As a Shiny New Engine comes along, the toys are full of hope. They tell him about the children on the other side of the mountain who are waiting for the toys and treats, and ask for his help. But the Shiny New Engine snorts, “I pull you? I am a passenger engine…Indeed not!”
Although sad, the toys did not give up. When they politely ask for help from a Big Engine passing by, he bellows, “I am a Freight Engine…. I am very important. I won’t pull the likes of you.”
The Rusty Old Engine was no help either as he sputterd, “I am so tired. I must rest my weary wheels. I can not, I can not, I can not.”
Not prepared to surrender, the toy clown notices a Little Blue Engine chugging merrily along. When asked if she could help them, Little Blue Engine chugs, ” I’m not very big, but… I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
The Little Blue Engine chugged and puffed up the very steep mountain carrying a heavy but delightful load of toys and treats. As she ventured down the other side, The Little Blue Engine smiled and huffed, “I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.”
I’d often read this delightful little story to my students in the library. The discussion that followed was always insightful, thoughtful and memorable. One little boy blurted out, “Those grumpy trains could learn a thing or two from the Little Blue one.” For another child, the lesson lingered to the playground. As I supervised during recess she cheerfully announced to me, ” I climbed the monkey bars for the first time! I just kept telling myself, I think I can….”
Children as young as five, clearly understand the book’s important lessons. I find it heartwarming to revisit them.
1. Having hope in your heart helps when you get discouraged. The little clown and the toys, although saddened by the response of the first three engines, persevered. While those engines were thinking only of themselves, the toys’ focus was to get to the children on the other side and make them happy.
2. You may feel sad or frustrated from time to time but being kind will make you feel better. Although the first engines were all huffy and puffy and ego driven, the toys were kind and in the end, so was the Little Blue Engine, who responded out of the goodness of her heart.
3. Thinking positive thoughts will get you positive results. While the Rusty Old Engine chugged, “I can not….” the Little Blue Engine puffed along, repeating, “I think I can…” and affirmed it later with, “I thought I could…”
The lessons that come from such a simple, yet deeply meaningful story can serve all ages. As I continue to write, edit and revise my book, I am reminded of what it takes to get to the other side of the mountain – optimism and hard work. As I write, I whisper to myself, “I know I can, I know I can, I know I can.”
Circa 1957 Vancouver Central Library