Ten Things Winnie the Pooh Taught Me About Life
This past Sunday marked an important birthday for one of the most beloved characters in the history of children’s literature. Winnie the Pooh. And although he didn’t appear in print until 1926, the actual stuffed animal that inspired the Winnie the Pooh stories is 90 years old. People sent the real Winnie the Pooh a birthday card via the New York Public Library. I’ll be honest: I was a little disappointed that I was too old to send a card. I am firm in my belief that Winnie the Pooh is such a lasting character because he can’t be fully appreciated until you’ve grown up. Only then can you realize all the life lessons the silly old bear has given you.
1. Positive Thinking. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” (The House at Pooh Corner, p. 11) Although Eeyore is generally known as the gloomy one, even he can look on the bright side occasionally.
2. Empathy. “What about me?” said Pooh sadly. “I suppose I shan’t be useful?” “Never mind, Pooh,” said Piglet comfortingly. “Another time, perhaps.” (Winnie the Pooh, p. 95) Piglet, being a Very Small Animal, acutely understands what it is like to feel useless.
3. Gratitude. But Eeyore wasn’t listening. He was taking the balloon out, and putting it back again, as happy as could be… (Winnie the Pooh, p. 89) It doesn’t matter to Eeyore that Piglet meant to give him an inflated balloon and Pooh meant to give him a pot of honey for his birthday and what he got was a popped balloon and an empty pot. He enjoys his gifts because his friends thought to give them to him.
4. Creative Problem Solving. In the very first story of the very first book we learn about Pooh’s Passion for Honey. (We also learn that capitalizing words in the middle of the sentence makes them serve two purposes; to stand out as a Very Important Idea and to define A. A. Milne’s Narrative Voice.) In Pooh’s quest for honey, the bees have become suspicious of him, and thus he needs a new plan that will allow him to fly under the radar and stealthily take the honey. He decides on attaching himself to a balloon. But a blue balloon or a green balloon?
He explains the benefit of each to Christopher Robin: “When you go after honey with a balloon, the great thing is not to let the bees know you’re coming. Now, if you have a green balloon, they might think you were only part of the tree and not notice you, and if you have a blue balloon, they might think you were only part of the sky and not notice you.” (Winnie The Pooh, p. 13)
5. The Importance of Education. “But to the Educated – mark this, little Piglet – to the Educated, not meaning Poohs and Piglets, it’s a great and glorious A.” (The House at Pooh Corner, p. 88) Those who can spell in the Hundred Acre Wood are the ones the others look up to. Owl is wise and often consulted for advice because he can spell Tuesday.
6. Taking Pleasure in the Simple Things in Life. And that was the beginning of a game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the forest. (The House at Pooh Corner, p. 95) Poohsticks may be one of the simplest games invented, but with the right friends, it can be endlessly entertaining.
7. Get Along With Everyone. “Tigger is all right, really,” said Piglet lazily. “Of course he is,” said Christopher Robin. “Everybody is really,” said Pooh. “That’s what I think.” (The House at Pooh Corner, p. 108) Even though Tigger is strange to them at first, the other characters soon embrace him as a friend. If these woodland creatures are able to put aside their, at times, staggering differences, certainly we human beings can as well.
8. Take Time to Do Nothing. “It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” (The House at Pooh Corner, p. 173). In an increasingly stressful world is it important to remember that a break is necessary to one’s physical and mental health.
9. Embrace Your Individuality. There are so many wonderful things about Tigger, but what’s the MOST wonderful thing? That he’s the only one! Being different is great.
10. Friendship. “Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.” Pooh thought for a little. “How old shall I be then?” “Ninety-nine.” “I promise,” he said. (The House at Pooh Corner, p. 179). The overall theme of Winnie the Pooh is the importance of forming solid, lasting friendships. With good friends, you will always have someone there to lean on, someone who will go on adventures and expeditions with you, and even someone who might invite you over for tea and a mouthful of something.
Winnie the Pooh is the source of one of my all-time favorite quotes, and it seems particularly fitting on this occasion.
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
Happy 90th Birthday, dear silly old bear.