What can I say? Country Girls is probably one of the most remembered Little House episodes of all time. The brown egg scandal, Ma making the dresses and of course we get to meet the legendary Nellie Oleson – in all her wicked glory. As I reflect on the lessons of this hour of television I’m struck with two things … fear of rejection and gratitude.
That morning, Laura with her head under the covers, wrestles with the fear of rejection. It proves even worse when her fears become reality as her and Mary are called “long-legged snipes” as they cross the playground. Then with Nellie and her “country girls” remark, Laura and Mary are feeling completely self-conscious before they even step foot in the school. Don’t we all struggle with this at times in our lives, not knowing if we will be accepted, hoping we won’t be made fun of? Especially in school, I think of the many children who are bullied every day by the likes of Nellie Oleson!
When my son was starting 1st grade, we had just moved so he was at a new school. Every morning was the same … him trying to be brave as we walked in and then we sat on the red bench until the bell rang. But as soon as the bell rang, the tears began to pool up in his eyes and he was terrified to not know anyone, to not have a friend. After about 2 weeks of this I realized that I had no idea what he was going through. After all, I am a twin, I always had Brenda with me on the first day of school … until my first day of college! As I told him the story, sympathizing with him that I couldn’t relate but knowing he was going to be ok, he looked at me and said “You were so lucky Mom!”
He did adjust after a while and now he just runs off and I’m left at the red bench … happy that the tears are a thing of the past. So how do we overcome this very real fear, to get out of the covers and brave a new place or season of life? Well it helps to have someone with you like Mary but it’s not always the case. When I am afraid, at the end of my rope, it’s the strength of God who helps me be courageous. In Joshua 1:9 it says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” At times we all need to take a deep breathe and take a step forward into the unknown, with prayers for strength and trust on our lips.
The display of gratitude also shines so brightly in this beloved episode. I love the trip to the mercantile for the slate, but the girls don’t have enough for a slate pencil. They can’t ask Pa for more … “he’s given us so much already.” Mary decides to use her Christmas penny and share it with Laura, as the Oleson children help themselves to handfuls of candy inside. Then you have Caroline surprising the girls with new dresses, instead of making one for herself. And the essays … I get a little teary just thinking of what Mary and Laura share versus Nellie and Willie. How do we raise children who are grateful, not always wanting more or boasting in what they do have? Who see that people are more important than possessions? I wish I had an easy answer, I don’t … but I do believe that when we hold back some from our children they realize that privilege is not a given. We don’t all get whatever we want and most things take hard work to obtain. It’s a hard road for us as parents, one that fights us everywhere … from the grocery store, to school clothes, to Christmas presents and trip souvenirs.
I don’t think Charles and Caroline had any other choice but to live without at times. This way of life made it possible for these lessons to be learned. There is a Ma quote from this episode that I just love … “We start learning when we are born and if we are wise we won’t stop until the good Lord takes us home.” Ma was quick to remind Laura “Do unto others” when there was trouble at school. Likewise Pa encouraged her to hold tight to this virtue as she went to sell eggs to Mrs. Oleson. Pa reminds us to not let the remarks get the best of us … after all Mary and Laura ARE country girls! Life is all about a journey, learning as we go, overcoming struggles and hopefully giving grace to others.