My favorite book from my childhood – I can’t believe the impact it has had on me as an adult – is Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. Do you know the story?
Here’s the Reader’s Digest condensed version:
Mazie the lazy bird (don’t you just love Dr. Seuss?) is getting bored sitting on her egg. She talks Horton, who just happens to walk by, into sitting on her egg to keep it warm while she takes a quick vacation. Horton protests but she eventually wears him down. So they prop up the tree – he’s an elephant, after all – and he plops down on the egg. Fine, for a bit. Then things begin to get tough….
It storms, all the other jungle animals taunt him, hunters capture him and take him out of the jungle, on a boat (where he gets seasick), and they sell him to a circus (which just so happens to be in the town Mazie has escaped to months ago). And there is a happy ending. But here’s the gist of the whole story. Over and over, through all the things that happen to him, Horton keeps his word by staying on that nest. The saying he recites is this:
I meant what I said,
and I said what I meant.
An elephant’s faithful
one hundred percent.
So here’s the thing about this book that has carried into my adulthood. I’ve noticed that not too many people follow Horton’s wise ways. We are very good at making excuses as to why we can’t do something that we told someone else we would do. We make excuses to other people, and excuses to ourselves. But that’s not okay. I don’t think that’s okay at all. And although we need to have the grace to excuse one another when we fall short (because nobody is perfect), we also need to take Horton’s words to heart and try to live our lives as faithful, dependable people. People that can be counted on. And when we are tempted to back out of a commitment, we can recite Horton’s words. I do it often. Both to myself and when someone lets me down. To remind myself that this is a very, very important thing to pay attention to.
Thank you, Dr. Seuss, for this life lesson.
(Note: these pictures were scanned from my childhood book, which is falling apart at the seams, but which is one of my most treasured possessions.)