Sunday, December 26, 2010

Striped Chipmunk Provides a Great Family Lesson

Striped Chipmunk, illustrated by Harrison Cady

Thornton W. Burgess’s books have delighted children for over one hundred years. His stories bring nature to life and help readers discover the value of adhering to the timeless principles of honesty, hard-work, and kindness and the cost of laziness, lying and stealing.

In this tale of Striped Chipmunk’s great, great, ever so great grandfather, the Merry Little Breezes learn how old Mr. Chipmunk earned his striped coat by his selfless act of courage.

As I read how Mr. Chipmunk saved Mr. Meadow Mouse without his friend ever knowing what happened I wondered how many people “saved” me from harm without my knowledge. Internalizing this thought makes it difficult to think ill of anyone because perhaps they did me a favor without my knowledge or awareness.

Old Mother Nature’s recognition and Mr. Chipmunk’s reward for his unselfish act is a reminder of a lesson found in the Sermon on the Mount:

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

—Matthew 6: 1-4.

The pain he bore is also a great reminder of why we celebrate Easter (I Peter 2:21-24):

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful story from Mother West Winds “Why” Stories which highlights the essential value and serves as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

The Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind are great friends of Striped Chipmunk. They hurry to call on him the very first thing every morning after Old Mother West Wind has brought them down from the Purple Hills. They always beg him to stop and play with them, but often he refuses. But he does it in such a merry way and with such a twinkle in his eyes that the Merry Little Breezes never get cross because he won’t play. No, Sir, they never get cross. If anything, they think just a little bit more of Striped Chipmunk because he won’t play. You see, they know that the reason he won’t play is because he has work to do, and Striped Chipmunk believes and says: 

“When there is work for me to do
The sooner started, sooner through.”

So every morning they ask him to play, and every morning they laugh when he says he has too much to do. Then they rumple up his hair and pull his whiskers and give him last tag and race down to the Smiling Pool to see Grandfather Frog and beg him for a story. Now Grandfather Frog is very old and very wise, and he knows all about the days when the world was young. When he is feeling just right, he dearly loves to tell about those long-ago days.

One morning the Merry Little Breezes found Grandfather Frog sitting as usual on his big green lily-pad, and they knew by the way he folded his hands across his white and yellow waistcoat that it was full of foolish green flies.

“Oh, Grandfather Frog, please do tell us why it is that Striped Chipmunk has such beautiful stripes on his coat,” begged one of the Merry Little Breezes.

“Chug-a-rum! They are stripes of honor,” replied Grandfather Frog, in his deep, gruff voice.

“Honor! Oh, how lovely! Do tell us about it! Please do!” begged the Merry Little Breezes.

“Chug-a-rum!” began Grandfather Frog, his big, goggly eyes twinkling. “Once upon a time, when the world was young, old Mr. Chipmunk, the grandfather a thousand times removed of Striped Chipmunk, lived very much as Striped Chipmunk does now. He was always very busy, very busy, indeed, and it was always about his own affairs. ‘By attending strictly to my own business, I have no time to meddle with the affairs of my neighbors, and so I keep out of trouble,’ said old Mr. Chipmunk,”

“Just what Striped Chipmunk says now,” broke in one of the Merry Little Breezes.

“That shows that he is just as wise as was his grandfather a thousand times removed, about whom I am telling you,” replied Grandfather Frog. “Old Mr. Chipmunk wore just a little, plain brown coat. It didn’t worry him a bit, not a bit, that his coat was just plain brown. It kept him just as warm as if it were a beautiful red, like that of Mr. Fox, or handsome black and white, like that of Mr. Skunk. He was perfectly satisfied with his little plain brown coat and took the best of care of it.

“One day as he was hurrying home to dinner, he climbed up on an old stump to look around and make sure that the way was clear. Over in a little path in the meadow grass was walking old Mr. Meadow Mouse. He was strolling along as if there was nothing in the world to fear. Way back behind him in the same little path, walking very fast but very quietly, was big Mr. Bob Cat. His eyes were yellow, and a hungry look was in them. He didn’t see Mr. Meadow Mouse, but he would in a few minutes. Mr. Chipmunk saw that he would, and that there was no place for Mr. Meadow Mouse to hide.

“‘Humph! I never meddle in other people’s affairs, and this is none of my business,’ said little Mr. Chipmunk.

“But old Mr. Meadow Mouse was a friend. He thought a great deal of Mr. Meadow Mouse, did little Mr. Chipmunk. He couldn’t bear to think of what would happen to Mr. Meadow Mouse if big Mr. Bob Cat should catch him. Then, almost without realizing what he was doing, little Mr. Chipmunk began to shout at big Mr. Bob Cat and to call him names. Of course big Mr. Bob Cat looked up right away and saw little Mr. Chipmunk sitting on the old stump. His eyes grew yellower and yellower, he drew his lips back from his long, sharp teeth in a very angry way, and his little bob tail twitched and twitched. Then, with great leaps, he came straight for the old stump on which little Mr. Chipmunk was sitting.

“Little Mr. Chipmunk didn’t wait for him to get there. Oh, my, no! He took one good look at those fierce, hungry, yellow eyes and long, cruel teeth, and then he whisked into a hole in the old stump. You see, there wasn’t time to go anywhere else. Big Mr. Bob Cat found the hole in the stump right away. He snarled when he saw it. You see it was too small, very much too small, for him to get into himself. But he could get one hand and arm in, and he did, feeling all around inside for little Mr. Chipmunk. Little Mr. Chipmunk was frightened almost to death. Yes, Sir, he was frightened almost to death. He made himself just as flat as he could on the bottom of the hollow and held his breath.

“‘You’d better come out of there, Mr. Chipmunk, or I’ll pull you out!’ snarled Mr. Bob Cat.

“Little Mr. Chipmunk just snuggled down flatter than ever and didn’t say a word. Mr. Bob Cat felt round and round inside the hollow stump and raked his long claws on the sides until little Mr. Chipmunk’s hair fairly stood up. Yes, Sir, it stood right up on end, he was so scared. When it did that, it tickled the claws of Mr. Bob Cat. Mr. Bob Cat grinned. It was an ugly grin to see. Then he reached in a little farther and made a grab for little Mr. Chipmunk. His wide-spread, sharp claws caught in little Mr. Chipmunk’s coat near the neck and tore little strips the whole length of it.

“Of course little Mr. Chipmunk squealed with pain, for those claws hurt dreadfully, but he was glad that his coat tore. If it hadn’t, Mr. Bob Cat would surely have pulled him out. After a long time, Mr. Bob Cat gave up and went off, growling and snarling. When he thought it was safe, little Mr. Chipmunk crawled out of the old stump and hurried home. He ached and smarted terribly, and his little plain brown coat was torn in long strips.

“‘This is what I get for meddling in the affairs of other folks!’ said little Mr. Chipmunk bitterly. ‘If I’d just minded my own business, it wouldn’t have happened.’

“Just then he happened to look over to the house of Mr. Meadow Mouse. There was Mr. Meadow Mouse playing with his children. He didn’t know a thing about what his neighbor, little Mr. Chipmunk, had done for him, for you remember he hadn’t seen Mr. Bob Cat at all. Little Mr. Chipmunk grinned as well as he could for the pain.

“‘I’m glad I did it,’ he muttered. ‘Yes, Sir, I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad that Neighbor Meadow Mouse doesn’t know about it. I’m glad that nobody knows about it.

‘A kindly deed’s most kindly done
In secret wrought, and seen of none.

And so I’m glad that no one knows.’

“Now just imagine how surprised little Mr. Chipmunk was, when in the fall it came time to put on a new coat, to have Old Mother Nature hand him out a beautiful striped coat instead of the little plain brown coat he had expected. Old Mother Nature’s eyes twinkled as she said:

“‘There’s a stripe for every tear made in your old coat by the claws of Mr. Bob Cat the day you saved Mr. Meadow Mouse. They are honor stripes, and hereafter you and your children and your children’s children shall always wear stripes.’

“And that is how it happens that Striped Chipmunk comes by his striped coat, and why he is so proud of it, and takes such good care of it, concluded Grandfather Frog. 

Source: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/14958

A partial list of Thornton W. Burgess’s books and links to online versions can be found in a post entitled “Books by Thornton W. Burgess”. Please refer to my other posts under the category Thornton W Burgess for information about the author and his stories.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Peter Rabbit, Johnny Chuck, Grandfather Frog and other Animals Teach Important Values

TWB and his wife in their garden with the Purple Hills and Green Meadows behind him
Thornton W. Burgess’s books (see Books by Thornton W. Burgess), whose cast of characters are the forest and meadow creatures, delighted children in the early to mid nineteen hundreds. The author paints wonderful word pictures that both entertain and educate. His first book Old Mother West Wind begins as follows:
“Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills in the golden light of the early morning. Over her shoulders was slung a bag—a great big bag—and in the bag were all of Old Mother West Wind's children, the Merry Little Breezes.
“Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills to the Green Meadows and as she walked she crooned a song:
‘Ships upon the ocean wait;
I must hurry, hurry on!
Mills are idle if I'm late;
I must hurry, hurry on.
“When she reached the Green Meadows Old Mother West Wind opened her bag, turned it upside down and shook it. Out tumbled all the Merry Little Breezes and began to spin round and round for very joy, for you see they were to lay in the Green Meadows all day long until Old Mother West Wind should come back at night and take them all to their home behind the Purple Hills.
“First they raced over to see Johnny Chuck. They found Johnny Chuck sitting just outside his door eating his breakfast. One, for very mischief, snatched right out of Johnny Chuck's mouth the green leaf of corn he was eating, and ran away with it. Another playfully pulled his whiskers, while a third rumpled up his hair.”
Through the Merry Little Breezes we meet some of the animals that inhabit the Green Meadows and Green Forest and learn about their friends and neighbors. We learn with them as they discover the value of adhering to the timeless principles of honesty, hard-work, and kindness and the cost of laziness, lying and stealing.
As They Were All Hungry
In Mr. Burgess’s Mother West Wind series we find out “How Old King Eagle Won His White Head”, “Why Striped Chipmunk is Proud of His Stripes”, and “How Mr. Weasel was made an Outcast” among other interesting stories. Each tale endears us more to the inhabitants of the forest and meadow as we learn important life lessons.
 
In our family Thornton W. Burgess wins the best author of books for young children. We call his books “dollar books”' because we paid our children $1.00 for each of his books that they read by themselves (see post on my daughters blog – she’s a much better writer than I am). His books are ideally structured to be used as bed-time stories. Each chapter can be read in under 10 minutes. If our children went to bed on time we would read them an extra chapter.
 
Mr. Burgess published his first book in 1910 and his last in 1960. In total he published 172 books. At the same time between 1912 and 1960 he wrote a syndicated daily newspaper column entitled “Bedtime Stories”. In total he wrote over 15,000 of these “stories”.
 
His father died the year he was born and he grew up in humble circumstances. Often he and his mother lived with relatives. As a youth he worked year round to earn money, often out of doors on farms. Through his stories he was able to share with millions the lessons he learned as a youth and his love of nature.
 
If we were privileged to have parents or grandparents who shared his stories with us then we are indeed blessed. If not, it is not too late to share them with our kids or grandkids and thus experience for ourselves these delightful tales.
 
A complete list of all of his books can be found at a website run by the Thornton W. Burgess Society. See my post  Books by Thornton W. Burgess for a partial list of his books and links to view online versions where available. Some of them have also been republished recently and can be purchased. Two of my favorite editions are The National Review of Classic Bedtime Stories Volume 1 and Volume 2. Together they contain all 20 of the Bedtime Stories Series and include the original artwork, which I love (see above).
 
My Christmas gift to you, dear reader, is a Word version of Mother West Wind “Why” Stories that you can download by clicking here. This file is set up to be printed on both sides of 8.5 x 11 paper (easy if you have a duplexing printer). It will take 27 sheets of paper, which you can cut in half and then have spiral bound at a local copy center (Kinko’s, OfficeMax, …). We like to use a clear cover sheet on the front and back. Feel free to share this with anyone. Please check back occasionally as I will be adding more booklet versions of the other Burgess books available online.
 
Merry Christmas!
Booklet Cover

You can learn more about Thornton W Burgess and his incredible impact on the world from the following:

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Opportunity in Problems

Computer problemDuring the course of our lives problems will arise: within our families, at work, or in organizations to which we belong. Our first reaction is often to cringe, deny and wonder why me. Let me put forth the notion that, rather than cringe at them, we view problems as an opportunity to improve our relationship with family, customers, co-workers, or fellow members.

To illustrate my point I’d like to share a story from my first job out of college. I was working for Motorola as a software engineer where my responsibilities included developing custom software for our CAD/CAM systems. By the end of my first year I had developed a number of new features for our CAD System to help speed up the design process for our circuit board designers. One afternoon, after I had made an enhancement to one of the features and reinstalled it, the designers complained that their systems were not behaving properly. After they explained what happened, I immediately knew what was wrong. I had made a small coding error and was able to fix it within a couple of minutes.