Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Relief Society!

We had a lovely Relief Society Birthday Celebration on Tuesday night chaired by Tia Barth. Jen Smith offered her home and cooking skills to provide a cozy setting and delicious dinner.

The theme was The Hundred Dresses and all partygoers were asked to bring a dress to donate to a woman's shelter. The hundred dresses comes from a wonderful Newbery Honor children's book by Eleanor Estes, published in 1944.

The book shares the story of a poor Polish immigrant, Wanda Petronski, who wears the same faded old blue dress to school every day. Trying to fit in with the other girls Wanda describes in detail the hundred dresses she claims to have at home. Her classmates tease her and suddenly one day Wanda has moved away.

Maddie and Peggy later discover that Wanda didn't have actual dresses at home but she did have 100 intricate drawings of beautiful dresses. Maddie is haunted by the way she and her friends treated Wanda and regrets never doing anything to stop the mocking even though it made Maddie feel uncomfortable. Maddie realized she'd been fearful that if she stood up for Wanda her friends might turn on her and ridicule her.

It's a charming old book and some would say a little overtly didactic but I don't really mind kid lit with characters like Maddie who grow through experience, even if the author's moralizing is a tad obvious.

Hey, if it helps me think about compassion and the importance of standing up for what is right, I'm not opposed to some blatant gestures of moral instruction through story telling. Although I know children's literature professors who believe books intended to teach lessons are blasphemous! Oh, well! I like them anyway.

Maddie's recognition of her role in hurting Wanda reminds me of the famous Abraham Lincoln quote: "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men."