... in a children's book

Published on 03 Jan 2020
A girl reading a children's book.

My family were recently having a big tidy up of my childhood home in preparation for work being done, and at some point I must have let slip to my brother that I had wanted to re-read or have a look at some of the children's books. Specifically, 'Mrs Pepperpot'

If you're unfamiliar, the Mrs Pepperpot stories were written by a Norwegian writer but very successful in English, and feature a little old lady who shrinks to the size of a pepperpot at unexpected moments. These stories of her adventures are intermingled with some folk stories and other fables (drawn from Norwegian tradition or elsewhere I'm not sure).

I read some of the stories at Christmas and found them delightful. One in particular really caught my attention lately. Mrs Pepperpot finds out that a teacher has been mean to a little girl she knows, and goes to give the teacher a piece of her mind, that is until she shrinks, and then is witness to a surprising scene where she finds out the teacher is going to send the girl a present of some fruit to say sorry for being mean. Mrs Pepperpot is surprised. The teacher doesn't have enough money to pay the whole amount and asks if she can pay the rest later, but the shopkeeper says no. So then, instead of Mrs Pepperpot being annoyed with the teacher, she's annoyed with the shopkeeper for being mean, but when she goes to tell the shopkeeper, she discovers that the shopkeeper is intending to take the girl the fruit anyway out of the kindness of her heart. And then the woman's husband is mean to the shopkeeper, and Mrs Pepperpot decides that he must be mean too, but then the man goes out and delivers the fruit himself, not even telling his wife about his act of kindness. The story ends with the girl getting the fruit from the teacher after all, and Mrs Pepperpot telling herself off for being so quick to judge people. 

We could call this the Parable of the Fruit, and it would find its place comfortably in the scriptures. For how many times do we jump to assumptions about people we know, or those we have just met, and attribute bad motives to them or think they have done something mean when they haven't. Sometimes it is all too easy to have a bad experience and become tough on the outside, expecting the worst rather than hoping for the best. But also its a story about changes of heart. Any one person might be capable of being mean one moment, but regretting it the next and doing their best to make up for it. Sometimes we speak without thinking and regret later. Lastly, kindness begets kindness. It's not always the case that if we are kind, other people will take advantage of us. Sometimes, when we are kind, it helps other people be kind to others, or kind to us even when we don't expect this.