Monday, March 30, 2009

Mary Poppins (March 26th, 2009) Shakopee Valley News

The wind blew most of Sunday and all through the night. I don’t always like the wind. It chaps my face and tires me out. My friend Dr. Jack is a keen observer of the wind and the changes it brings. When the wind started coming out of the East I thought perhaps that Mary Poppins was going to blow into town. The movie starring Julie Andrews was based on the book written by P.L. Travers. I generally prefer books over a film adaptation (and I enjoy watching movies), but this particular book gets a little crazy at times (it takes nail biting to a Lecter-like level) so I recommend the movie.

I suspect that there are perhaps dozens of web-sites, articles, books (maybe even a few columns) devoted to the child-rearing lessons learned from Mary. I have also read about economists who refer to the story when explaining panicked bank runs and the magic of compound interest, so clearly I cannot take credit for bringing this idea to light, but as there is “nothing new under the sun,” I would like to offer my own list of observations. The book All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, suggests that the really important things are not complex. I think that the ideals brought forth in The Mary Poppins story run the same course. Lord knows right now we certainly could use her practically perfect approach to problems.

Mary Poppins traveled light; taking everything she needs in her carpet bag. I like that uncluttered approach. Take what you need and leave the rest. The greedy accumulation of possessions and money should not be the end goal, but rather a means to fund the journey through life. Coins (tuppence) traded for bird seed (and perhaps because of that exchange the old woman selling the seed is able to support herself), lasts longer as a meaningful memory than placing them in a savings account where inflation pecks away at it.

When it becomes necessary to take your medicine (or any of the other required doses of cures and consequences) it always helps to do so with a spoonful of sugar. It just makes tough things easier to swallow when accompanied with something pleasant. Otherwise mundane tasks can be made easier with an “element of fun.”

Mary’s friends (Bert the chimney sweep) and family members (Uncle Albert) are light hearted, caring individuals who freely share their time and talent with children, and always without an appointment. Some wonderful jokes which later prove to be life changing are told by Uncle Albert and Bert (beautifully played by Ed Wynne and Dick Van Dyke) during the time with Mary Poppins, and the Bank’s children in Uncle Albert’s home. The story does a good job of demonstrating how time spent with older relatives, who are often neglected, can be very rewarding.

Jane and Michael Banks only desired time with their father, but Mr. Banks was under pressure to perform at his job at the bank leaving no time and energy to invest in his children at the end of the day. It isn’t until the end of the movie where we see that George Banks finally learns the truth after he is fired from his job. But as is often the case, something good comes from an otherwise unpleasant situation. He now is able to see what he had been missing. Whether it’s flying kites or telling jokes at a tea party, time with family and friends is more precious than gold. Think of that the next time the wind blows.

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