This is what struck me most about the lives of the Ingalls. Through thick and thin, Laura's family stuck together. Through several difficult cross-country moves, Indian home invasions, prairie fires, chimney fires, locust plagues, disastrous debts, and blizzards, they remained a very tight-knit, loving family. Never fought, never complained, and always made the best of a rotten situation. Even as they all nearly starved to death in the long winter of 1880 they made do and survived by never letting themselves fall into despair.
When Laura was 15 years old she received her teaching certificate and traveled to a nearby settlement to teach school for a semester. She was boarded by the school superintendent, Mr. Brewster, and his spiteful, angry wife who resented the move from the east to the prairie. She kept a dirty house, let her baby cry for hours without noticing, and wouldn't even respond to Laura's repeated attempts at politeness. When Laura tried to make pleasant conversation as she helped the woman prepare dinner, she'd simply ignore Laura as if she hadn't spoken. In the mornings when Laura would rise and greet her with a smile and a "good morning", she'd get no response. In a moment of epiphany, I read the words "Laura had never realized it took two people to make a smile".
When she finally returned home, she asked her sister Carrie if she'd ever thought how lucky they all were to be living in such a nice home with a nice family. Carrie answered, no, she hadn't thought of it. To which Laura responded, "Just wait until you leave home. Then you'll see."
Not that their home was in any way extravagant or built more richly than anyone else's. During those years, their homestead house was a mere claim shanty, but it was always cozy and always neat and clean. Small touches here and there, like the gingham red tablecloth and their Ma's china shepherdess lent whatever house they were living in, a warm, cozy feeling. Even the mud house built into the bank of Plum Creek was kept as clean as it could be with a dirt floor. Laura's Pa sang a happy tune about sunflowers whenever they found themselves in bad times and his fiddle was always ready to lift their spirits or celebrate some good fortune. Before Laura left home, she hadn't realized that all this was done deliberately, and with effort, in order to make a better home and a better life for the whole family.
I couldn't help but hold myself up to this new-found standard. So many times, as I've met with ill fortune, I've let my smile go. I've complained and struggled and I've forgotten to remember that the things for which I have to be grateful, far out-numer the things which suck. Plain and simple. It seems second nature to seek out cheerful people when I'm less than cheerful, myself. But it does, indeed, take two people to make a smile and it's unfair of me to expect anyone to shoulder all the responsibility of cheering me up. Positive thinking has been pushed to forefront of new age philosophy these days but back then during the homestead rush, new age wasn't even an inkling of a thought yet. Ma and Pa Ingalls were wise. Whether they stumbled upon that way of living on accident or were just raised that way, the fact remains that their resilient, can-do attitudes got them all through some sticky situations that others may have not survived. What is just a childhood story for some was a revelation to me, and a confirmation of what I'd always expected...attitude is everything.
There's a lot more that can be said on the matter, but I've promised you as well as myself to keep my posts short and sweet this time around. I need to be getting up and out to spruce up my for-sale rental today in hopes that someone will come along and snatch it up quickly. I'm hoping for a miracle. And I'll be smiling and softly singing to myself because a light heart really does make life better.
"Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more and all good things will be yours."