I wouldn’t have spent hours playing Mary and Laura with my sister and getting our friends involved so we could all pretend to live in a covered wagon (the back of a pickup truck). I wouldn’t have any sense of awe over the fact that my grandpa lived in De Smet, South Dakota, and rode his bike past the house where Ma and Mary Ingalls were still living. I may even have been spared a cavity or two because “being like Mary” made it fun to save my candy for later. I definitely wouldn’t have a little girl’s apron with a stain on it from wading in Plum Creek! Even more than that, I maybe wouldn’t have thought learning Braille was so interesting, and if I hadn’t learned to read Braille, I suspect I wouldn’t have found spelling in print quite as easy or words quite so fun.
All of that because of a story that was a shared? Yes, because of a story that was shared and that I connected to in a special way.
Most girls want to be Laura. I loved Laura, but Mary was my favorite. Having had a visual impairment since birth, the little-girl me sometimes found it hard to not be able to do the things other kids could do or to just “be different”. When my family read about Mary Ingalls’ blindness, I felt like I could connect with her. In some way, she made my “differences” a little more ok. Then, as she learned how to do things in a way that worked for her, I was inspired. If Mary could do that, maybe I could too! And since my friends always wanted to pretend to be Laura, I had a guaranteed part in our imaginary games – not a bad deal!
Beyond that, I’ve wondered about something over the years. What if Laura’s story-telling abilities developed because she had to use words to describe the world for Mary? Maybe the tragedy of Mary losing her sight helped give the world a set of stories that have inspired hundreds of thousands of children and families to learn from the past, make do and enjoy simple pleasures. Little girls (and boys) have snuggled under blankets with loved ones to read these tales for decades now and have precious memories built around those times.
Little girls like me.
That makes me wonder even more. What if the hard things we go through aren’t so much about us or aren’t meant just for us? What if those hard things are meant to bless others? Maybe we won’t ever know about it. I suspect Mary Ingalls never considered that someday a girl would be writing on her iPad about how Mary’s life influenced her own. Still, it happened.
What if the same thing could happen with your life?
But you have to remember that I only know about Mary because someone shared the story, sad parts and all. Laura could have skipped over Mary going blind or pretended like it had never happened. We do know her stories aren’t strictly autobiographical after all. But, no, Laura left it in – not sharing every detail – but telling enough. (Sometimes there is wisdom in telling “just enough”.)
And for all the good it brought into my life, I’m thankful.
What hard things have you gone through that might help someone else? Have you been willing to share the stories? Sometimes it can take a heap of courage to do it, and it certainly takes wisdom to know the when and the how. Perhaps this will be something to pray about in this new year.