Sunday, January 27, 2019

Lessons from Anne of Green Gables

"Dear old world," she murmured, "you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you."

When I was a young girl, my aunt recommended a VHS version of Anne of Green Gables.  My mother and I must have watched that video at least a dozen times.  I knew the plot and lines almost by heart.  I loved Anne and all of her escapades, especially her ongoing feud with the handsome Gilbert Blythe.

Yet, I never read L.M. Montgomery's novel, which she wrote in 1908.  I reasoned that it would probably just be redundant, as I knew the storyline so well.  Now, many years later, I figured it was at long last time to pick up the classic and give the novel a chance.  

It was a rewarding decision!  As in every other instance, the book is so far superior to the movie.

Anne Shirley is a young orphan whose parents died from illness when she was just a baby.  Her childhood was far from a happy one: her parents having no close relatives, a neighbor named Mrs. Thomas took Anne in.  As Anne grew, she helped Mrs. Thomas raise her four younger children.  When the drunken Mr. Thomas died, another neighbor named Mrs. Hammond agreed to take Anne.  This woman had eight children (including three sets of twins!).  Anne worked and lived with them for over two years and then was sent to an asylum.  When asked if these women were good to her, Anne replies:

"O-o-o-h," faltered Anne.  Her sensitive little face suddenly flushed scarlet and embarrassment sat on her brow.  "Oh, they meant to be--I know they meant to be just as good and kind as possible.  And when people mean to be good to you, you don't mind very much when they're not quite--always." 

The child's young life was marked by tragedy, loneliness, and abuse.  She was neglected and uneducated.  

Yet--Anne is a character full of hope.  In spite of her childhood (or, maybe, because of it), she finds the joy and beauty in the world around her, latches onto it, and marvels at it.  

"What a splendid day!" said Anne, drawing a long breath.  "Isn't it good just to be alive on a day like this?  I pity the people who aren't born yet for missing it.  They may have good days, of course, but they can never have this one.  And it's splendider still to love such a lovely way to go to school by, isn't it?" 

One may think that a childhood of such neglect might produce a mean-spirited, resentful, melancholy child.  Yet Anne is quite the opposite.  She is full of zest for life.  

It certainly made me reflect--me, who has been surrounded by love my whole life--why I don't always express the same enthusiasm for a new sunrise.  Why is it I see the snow outside and sigh for the warmer temperatures ... why not admire the way it glistens in the sunlight or how it makes the world outside seem like a magical snow globe as it silently falls to the ground?

A little imagination transforms the humdrum of every day work and chores.  The plain, the simple, the ordinary can become new and vivid with imagination.  

"All things great are wound up with all things little."

Anne of Green Gable is a book about transformations: little and big, mixed up together.  It is a witness of how one person's life can positively affect so many other lives.  Siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert open their home to orphan Anne and, because of their openness, they are transformed.  They, in turn, help and change Anne.  It's the beauty of family--growing together, challenging each other, learning from one another.  

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