Have any of you read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett? It was the book that made me love books. (Does every book-lover have one of those? Do you?) I first read it when I was very little and have spent the last two days rereading it, as I tend to do every few years.
But the thing that struck me about the story this time around is that the story's preteen heroine, Sara Crewe, seems to have life completely figured out. Even when she loses both her father and her fortune and is working as a hated scullery maid at her London boarding school to pay off her debts, she never sacrifices her virtues of benevolence, hope, and grace. Her secret is that she considers herself a princess in spirit, even when she is no longer as wealthy and privileged as one. Sadly, I have not yet gotten my life philosophies together and lack Sara's ability to gracefully accept whatever life throws at me. So, in order to stop feeling inferior, I have compiled a list of tricks and tips from the Princess Sara herself!
A Guide to Grace from the Show Pupil of Miss Minchin's Boarding School, Sara Crewe
1. Be condescending to those who irk you.
Sara treats bullies, such as headmistress Miss Minchin, the cook, or her former schoolmates, like peasants who are mistreating her out of ignorance and whom she could easily have executed, if she weren't such a benevolent ruler.
2. Never forgot the power of an "If you please" or a "Could you be troubled to".
This makes it harder for the cook to find fault with Sara's behavior, frustrates Miss Minchin, and generally mystifies all the people who seek to beat Sara down. It's harder to abuse a person who is nothing but gracious and polite!
3. Tell beautiful stories set in underwater palaces built of mother-of-pearl.
Sara's greatest power is her imagination. She uses it to make the best of bad situations and to charm the people around her. Even when she is in disgrace, the adoring outcasts of her school sneak to her attic bedroom at night and escape their own lives by listening to her stories.
4. Read and learn.
Sara loves to read and considers her education to be one of the only things separating her from a common beggar. I think that, given a few more years, she would have eventually rescued herself from poverty by virtue of her own intelligence.
5. Be selfless.
Sara considers this to be the most important quality of a princess, and she clings to it even at her worst moments. She even tells her friend Ermengarde, who struggles in school, that"Perhaps to be able to learn things quickly isn't everything. To be kin d is worth a great deal to other people...Lots of clever people have done harm and have been wicked." A real princess always puts her subjects before herself, and that is what people should most take away from her story.
To Sara's mind, princesses don't need to have tiny feet or fawning princes or enough money to purchase a fleet of pumpkin carriages. Here is Sara's (superior) definition of a princess:
"She says it has nothing to do with what you look like, or what you have. It has only to do with what you think of, and what you do."
Guys, let's all try to be princesses and princes this week!