Today in 1866, the beloved author and creator of Peter Rabbit and other such creatures, Beatrix Potter, was born. As a child growing up in England, I have a great fondness for Beatrix Potter and the children’s stories she wrote and illustrated. My mother gave me a beautiful Wedgewood tea set illustrating the Tale of Peter Rabbit and a hand sewn Benjamin Bunny stuffed animal made by an elderly artist in a nearby town. Unfortunately, Miss Potter was not as widely celebrated in her own lifetime as she is today. Her stories are not merely for children, but anyone who wants to be transported to a place of talking animals encountering the same problems and questions that have troubled life since day one.
So, how could I possibly relate one of Miss Potter’s tales on this blog? Well, the lessons from the most famous tale, Peter Rabbit, have been well documented, as have the economic lessons of the Tale of Ginger and Pickles. However, one tale is not as widely circulated for its hidden life lessons.
The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle
This children’s story is about a little girl, Lucie, who misplaces her pinny and handkerchiefs. This seems to be a common problem for the girl. In her quest to find her missing belongings, she walks up a hill and discovers a small door. She enters and finds Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, a hedgehog wearing a striped petticoat, large apron and hair cap. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is in her kitchen busy doing laundry for all the other animals in the area. Lucie discovers her clothing in the belongings Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is washing. Once clean, Lucie’s clothing and that of the other animals, seems to have a new life and splendor. After sharing a cup of tea (of course), the two head down the hill and give the clothing back to all the animals. At the bottom of the hill, the only belongings remaining are those of Lucie, but before she can thank Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle or pay her bill, she turns around to find the hedgehog with an apron has disappeared and a normal hedgehog minus the clothes scuttles back up the hill.
Yes, this is a story about housework, but there are some professional lessons we can take away from this tale.
Clean up after yourself.
Don’t be another Lucie and scatter your belongings or engagement thoughtlessly into the world. Get your house in order is a mantra I constantly repeat to myself and team. Before you can go out and be a valuable resource in the community, ensure you have cleaned up your house or side of the street. You cannot control other people’s actions, but you can control your own. Get a handle on who you are, what you are sharing or creating and why. Adding value to the community can only be done if you know what your value is first.
Find the joy in mundane tasks.
Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. There can only be so much strategy thrown around before someone has to actually execute. Washing clothes may seem like a thankless task, but Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle seems to find joy in the effort, as well as helping out her fellow woodland creatures. If you aren’t going to do a task out of self motivation, think about what you are giving back to the community. How are you being a valuable resource? Hard work is much more pleasurable and goes by quicker if you can find something to smile about.
Once you do something for the community, as Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle did, don’t wave a flag and shout through a megaphone about the great thing you just did for someone else. Be proud of your efforts, but not arrogant by making sure all know your great deed. Do something for others you wish people would do for you. Put value out into your community and it will be reciprocated.
In celebration of Miss Potter’s birthday, what other tales are your favorites? What lessons have you learned?