"That is all very well, little Alice," said her grandfather, "but there is a third thing you must do."
"What is that?" asked Alice.
"You must do something to make the world more beautiful." said her grandfather.
"All right," said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.
--Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Have you ever felt the desire in you to make the world more beautiful?
Have you ever had trouble figuring out how to do that?
Sometimes we don't know what we can do to make the world more beautiful. And with so many voices telling us what we could do, we can find ourselves timid to try something new! However, the journey of how we can make the world more beautiful is all about discovery. Such a journey is the story of Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.
Who I find amazing is Miss Rumphius’ grandfather in the story. He spoke with such simplicity in his interactions with Alice. He was a good listener too. He listened to her share how she too would like to travel the world and live by the sea. He didn’t tell her she was silly for her desire to be like him when she grew up.
In reality, Alice’s grandpa would have known all the ways the world could be difficult. He probably knew he made mistakes along the way. I’m sure there could have been parts of him that wished he would have done things differently. Yet, he doesn’t share this with Alice. Instead, he shares the wisdom he learned. He affirms her wondrous heart that desired to one day travel to faraway places. After listening and affirming her, he then shares his profound wisdom that touches Alice’s heart and us as readers.
“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
Did her grandfather tell her what that would be for her? No. He did not tell her what to do, he allowed her to discover how she could make the world more beautiful in her own timing and unique way.
Along the way, Alice learns of the joy found in the process, the journey, and the wonder of how she could make the world more beautiful.
I love her ability to engage with the unknown. After hearing the wisdom her grandfather shared, she admits she does not know what would be her way of making the world more beautiful!
Isn't that the beauty of a child's heart? Such raw honesty paired with complete acceptance of the unknown.
Cooney then writes, “In the meantime Alice got up and washed her face and ate porridge for breakfast. She went to school and came home and did her homework.”
The words “in the meantime” stand out to me. Alice didn’t begin to unravel in uncertainty because she didn't know. She also didn’t set her heart on striving to figure out how she would make the world more beautiful. She lived in the wonder, peace, maybe even monotony of the “in the meantime.” She let her life unravel as she followed her passions and discovered who she was. And along the way, she also discovered her way of making the world more beautiful: wandering over fields and headlands sowing lupine seeds all over!
It can seem like a daunting task to figure out how we are going to make the world more beautiful or how we can help guide our children to do the same. Today, we encourage you to pick up Miss Rumphius and read it aloud with your kids or those children you are homeschooling.
Allow yourself a little bit of “in the meantime” and watch wonder grow.
Sometimes, like Miss Rumphius, it just begins with us saying "All right" and stepping into the unknown.