Four Lessons from “The Little Engine That Could”
A while ago I wrote this article on another platform. I thought you would enjoy it and learn what a little book can teach us. It’s amazing what lessons we can learn from children’s books.
This past weekend I had the delightful job to read to my 3-year-old granddaughter. She chose “The Little Engine That Could”. Not only do I remember reading this book to my children but I remember reading it as a child. And I remember reading to my grade ones when I taught school.
The history of the book goes through several versions until Arnold Munk with the pen name of Watty Piper, wrote and had it published in 1930. Lois Lenski did the first pictures. An updated version, published in 1954 had colourful illustrations by George and Doris Hauman. This is the version I remember and the one that is on the children’s bookshelf.
As I read the story to my granddaughter I got excited about how the story built up emotion and taught lessons on the way.
The story is about a little train who wants to bring presents over the hill to children in another town. They are patiently and excitedly awaiting their gifts. However, on the way to the town, the little engine breaks down. The toys are very upset and the funny little clown sets off to find another train to help them.
As they go to the different trains asking for help, I thought about all the things we put faith in here on earth instead of what God would want us to.
Four Faith Lessons from Four Trains
1.) The first train has a Shiny New Engine:
We put much status into buying new things. There is always a new widget or gizmo that we want to have. Cellphones and computers top the list for new innovations and the need to have the latest model.
This release of new gizmos is gaining momentum each year.
When I stop to think about it we purchased our first computer in 1989 — it was an amazing TI99 4/A. And we watched it on our TV. (Hubby and I are trying to remember all this.) I know we purchased a used Apple IIe after that. I think I did some early programming on that machine. It couldn’t do much but it fascinated me.
But ever since those first computers, things have moved swiftly forward. Newer and better.
Do we look down on things that aren’t perfect and shiny; that aren’t new?
Personally, I love refurbishing old things to make them new. I like things that are made of wood not plastic.
When we were younger we didn’t take a car loan. Instead, we bought used cars and saved our money. As long as the car ran that’s all that mattered. We still often buy used cars because the depreciation on a new vehicle is ridiculous. Check it out before you decide on your next vehicle.
But the shiny New Engine didn’t want to help the little toy train because he was too special — too proud. He looked down on the little train and said a resounding “NO”.
2.) Next comes a Big Engine:
We always think might is right and power makes things happen. But if we look throughout history we see the powerful fall from their towers. They topple down. They can’t keep up the illusion.
What out: Listen to what the Bible teaches us
“Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:17–18, The Message).”
Bigger is better, right? Let’s look at the monster homes of this age.
Why do we need so much space? What’s the purpose?
When we downsized from our family home (the first time), we bought a small townhome. I enjoyed the two years we lived there. There was more time to get out and do things — not being tied to looking after a big home.
Bigger isn’t better. Look at your needs, not at your wants. Enjoy what you have now. Save for the future. Take experiences (playing in the park, walking somewhere new) instead of putting out big bucks for new and big items.
I thought about the Christian church — bigger is not always better. In fact when you get so many people joining how can you be sure that they are in fellowship with one another?
I love this article:
But the Big Engine says he is too important and won’t “pull the likes of you”.
3.) The Rusty Old Engine comes next:
Sometimes we do get tired and defeated. We figure we are too old, or not useful. The defeatist attitude stalks our every moment.
I think these thoughts need to be taken captive as I have learned that Christ gives me strength.
Here is a great article on Crosswalk.com about taking your thoughts captive:
A couple of years ago I volunteered to run a VBS at our church. From the first day, I caught a really bad cold and cough. I didn’t know how I was going to keep going. I kept praying. And I kept going.
The minister set up a microphone system so I could talk softly into it and the kids could hear me. Actually, I found the entire week filled with peace. The kids sensed the need to work well and quietly. We had fun.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13, NIV).”
But the Rusty Old Engine sighed and said he could not. He was too tired and weary.
4.) Lastly comes the Little Blue Engine;
A Little Blue Engine comes chugging merrily along. The dolls and toys don’t have to ask this train for help, she asks them what’s wrong. She tells them she isn’t very big and has never been over the mountain.
Do you sometimes feel that a job is too big for you to handle?
Do you feel overwhelmed with the details and difficulty of the task?
Well, this little engine can teach us lessons.
She thought of what the kids would be missing if this little train didn’t bring the gifts to the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain.
And then she said: I think I can. I think I can. It was a supreme effort but she kept chugging along saying — I think I can.
If there are times you don’t think you can do something — ask Jesus. He is right there to give you the strength, courage or inspiration to get the job done.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10, NIV).”
If there are times you need to go somewhere or do something you have never attempted, remember from scripture:
“but the righteous are bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1, NIV).”
And the Little Blue Engine pulled that train up the mountain and down into the town to deliver the presents to the boys and girls.
These were my discoveries as I read this book to my granddaughter. Certainly, there are 4 good life lessons to get from this tiny book.
- Don’t be swayed by new things.
- Bigger is not necessarily better.
- Even when you feel unable to do a task, Jesus can strengthen you.
- Say: I think I can. Then be bold and do it.