I don’t know why I’m having a problem getting this to copy to FB, or to a friend of mine who is a follower and says she didn’t get this message. So that the addendum that followed was a little confusing to her. So I’m trying once more. If you have seen this before, please just toss it away – I apologize to anyone who keeps getting this.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote:
The world is so full of a number of things,
I am sure we should all be as happy as kings.
Jean Webster in “Daddy-Long-Legs:
“It’s true, you know. The world is full of happiness, and plenty to go round, if you are only willing to take the kind that comes your way. The whole secret is in being pliable. In the country, especially, there are such a lot of entertaining things. I can walk over everybody’s land, and look at everybody’s view, and dabble in everybody’s brook; and enjoy it just as much as though I owned the land – and with no taxes to pay!”
Jean wrote Daddy-Long-Legs in 1912; in 1912, women did not have the vote, but she went to college at Vasser, graduating in 1901, and went into benevolence work. Her book, for those not familiar with her work, is about a young woman who was raised in an orphanage, or as they called them at the time, an asylum. Yet Jean’s outlook on life was such that she wrote a book that has stood the test of time, that is a book all young girls should read, that probably everyone should read.
Jean Webster was a Socialist, though born into a wealthy and prominent family, being a direct descendent of Noah Webster. But she felt that all people should be treated as equals, no matter their status in life’s economic sector, and she used her wealth of money, as well as common sense, and love, and compassion, to help the social workers she worked with. She had a great love for children, and particularly loved working at reforming orphanages.
The irony of Jean Webster’s life was that she married at 39, and died less than a year later in childbirth. The woman who worked so hard for and with children finally lost her life for a little baby, who has carried on Jean’s legacy.
Why do I write this? Because I suspect there are two or three generations who are not familiar with the book Daddy-Long-Legs, or perhaps have seen only the movie with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron, which has almost no relationship to the book, even to the character’s name. I have had my book, 1940 edition, since I was about nine or ten, and to this day, I read it four or five times a year. It brings me back to earth when I most need it.
The life of her character Jerusha (Judy) Abbott, in her letters to Daddy-Long-Legs, is a reminder of looking at the joy of life in the ordinary things we see and live with each day. No, we don’t have the freedom to just walk about on someone else’s property, or wade in their brook, or see their views. That is because the people who own these things have fences about their property. They are afraid of losing something. And the public parks and brooks and rivers are being ruined by corporate hogs who want ever more and more money, and don’t care that they are wrecking the planet for the general public.
Taxes? Unfortunately, because of tax loopholes, those wealthiest of people are keeping their own by the taxes the poorest of people are paying. Of course, in Jean Webster’s day, there was no income tax, so she did not know of that particular tax – she knew only property taxes. Jean’s heroine, Judy, had her college days paid for by a wealthy benefactor who was a trustee of the orphanage Judy was raised in. And spent her summers on a farm, also chosen by her benefactor.
She worked hard in her Freshmen and Sophomore years, and applied for a scholarship that paid for her last two years, while continuing the allowance given her by her benefactor so that she retained the status of her classmates (she got $35 a month, not much of a sum today, but a great deal of money in her college days). The point is that she did not accept the largesse once she was able to find the funds for herself.
So once again, let me remind you of RLS’s great words:
The world is so full of a number of things, I am sure we should all be as happy as kings.
And try to see the good things we have instead of dwelling on those things the evilest of humankind wants us to see first. And get out there and work to make it so for everyone.
If we the people can accomplish this, and cause the wealthiest and most stingy and mean of human beings to feel unhappy and wondering why things are changing, then perhaps we can teach them how to look at the everyday world and see the happiness it can bring.
We just have to work at it, and quit expecting everything to be handed to us infinitely. A little leg up should never hurt anyone, but they should never count on the handouts to continue forever. And most of all, everyone should learn to “Pay it forward”.