What Katy Did

For you know we never do people good by lecturing; only by living their lives with them, and helping a little here and a little there to make them better.

-What Katy Did, p. 141

If I took nothing else from this moralizing tale…let it be this…a lecture is no good.  I have given all kinds of brilliant lectures right in the comfort of my own home and on a wide variety of subjects ranging from practicing instruments to why we don’t eat high fructose corn syrup to how to properly pull a weed.    You would think I had been called to the circuit and given gold medals for my content and deliveries.  But now that I have a 20 year old, I am here to confess that Ms. Susan Coolidge might be on to something.  Lectures have a 20 second half life so unless you can pack a lot of info into a very short period of time-give it up.  I say that; but lectures do serve a very important purpose in my life: they allow me to vent my frustrations and get out my annoyances and really feel like I’m doing something important about them.  And that’s worth a lecture now and again.

I am reminded of something I read years ago by Sinichi Suzuki (I highly, highly recommend his writings, btw).  At one point a teen-aged relative comes to live with Suzuki and two other adult relatives (were they his parents?  I don’t remember-aunt and uncle seems more correct to me…my book is currently under lock and key in somebody else’s office or I would look it up) The young man is a coarse youth with little in the way of manners and deportment.  Instead of lecturing the youth at every turn, the adults in the home decided to quietly and simply model the behavior they desired in the errant youth.  OVER TIME (that’s my hitch) he changed completely and became so kind and polite without ever a lecture to be had. Reminder:  this is a true story.  This has stuck with me for many years.  Not enough to beat the lecture out of me, but enough to be a gentle reminder that there is a better (but longer) way.  I have found other ways to communicate without lecturing as well-sometimes I  roll my eyes, or walk out of the room, or shut the door convincingly and I always add to these  a nice sarcastic parting shot.

I liked this book.  I didn’t love it.  I was curious to see how it ended-and it ended in an expected and fairytale manner where Katy learned all of the moral lessons that she needed to in order to  become a kind and lovely adult.  She had to learn them in a rather dramatic manner; but in the end she picked up her sick bed and walked so we don’t have to feel too badly.  In this sense, it reminded me of Polly Anna and Heidi.  While Katy lacked some of the innate moral goodness expressed in the other two, she reformed in that direction taking everyone else with her.  Of the three books mentioned, I definitely preferred Heidi. In fact, I kept hoping that Heidi could somehow teleport me to those Swiss hills described so well by Ms. Spyri.  I’m dying to go.

Not that Katy grew perfect all at once.  None of us do that, even in books.

-What Katy Did, p. 146

Whew!  That’s  a relief-sometimes these novels are a little too sweet to be true…

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