The nicest things you can have… – Nisha Kaura

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A firm friend in our Junior School celebrated his 96th Birthday last week, and to mark him being Very Old Indeed, we have been reflecting on his character and the wonderful adventures which he has embarked on while dwelling happily in the Hundred Acre Wood. Winnie-the-Pooh’s vibrant and enduring stories are part of the fabric of our school; in the same way in which we grew up reading them, so we now read them to the children in our care. 

Pooh’s best friends are loveable in their individual ways, demonstrating thoughtfulness, kindness and even heroism in their attitudes towards each other. In our morning assemblies, we have reflected on what makes each of them a good friend, and what we can learn from their relationships. Their varying personality styles may be worth considering – how do they influence how we react to stimuli and how we orient ourselves to the world around us? Hundred Acre Wood could be anywhere – the family home, our local village, our school. 

Pooh himself, whilst a little naive and slow-witted, can be thoughtful, insightful, open and upbeat, albeit blissfully unaware of consequences. His friends find comfort in his simple yet charming pursuit of happiness. His owner, Christopher Robin, is cheerful and compassionate, displaying modesty and intelligence. He inspires and motivates, encouraging collaborative problem solving with a calm head and diplomatic sensitivity. He can admit to his limitations whilst seeking input from his friends. Then we have the others – Kanga, Roo, Rabbit, Tigger and Owl – who between them, bring a blend of patience, good multi-tasking, harmony, energy, care, fun, resilience, optimism, resourcefulness… And whilst their antics also shine a light on shortcomings such as being easily annoyed, blind to potential disaster or obsessed with rules, the strength of their bond is reinforced by their individual contributions woven into the fabric of their lives.  

While each character is enchanting, we agree as a school that Eeyore seems to hold a special status as a truly great literary persona. The generally anhedonic old grey donkey is not a fan of much (other than eating thistles), but his loyalty wins the heart of his friends every time he loses his tail. We recognise something deeply human in his outlook and so are drawn helplessly towards him. We feel his sadness, as the archetypal outsider. He lives in his Gloomy Place – a lonely corner of the forest, waiting for the others to pass through – which happens infrequently. He takes great pains to distinguish himself from his friends who amble contentedly through their daily lives, whilst he spends most of his time Thinking. Alone, he wrestles sadly with “Why?” and “Wherefore?”, his mind perhaps clouded with thoughts that cut him off from the beautiful world around him. Despite his many failings, the riddle we explored this week is why we may love him so much. His melancholy can teeter on the brink of absurdity and he offers hilarity by the way his glorious sarcasm sails straight over the others’ heads. But perhaps the key to his character is how profoundly conflicted he appears. He craves attention, yet struggles to give or receive it. Such conflict makes his plight of unyielding misery a sympathetic one. 

The story most moving to us as a school is when Piglet’s friends decide one night to demonstrate to him what a good friend he is. Their perfect gift of thanks is to each draw a picture of what their individual friendships mean to them – much to Piglet’s delight upon his return home. From this we have drawn on the power of gratitude – for each other in our school. Each week, we capture our thoughts on what we are grateful for and collect these in our class Gratitude Jars. From the jars, we choose three thoughts each week to add to our school’s Gratitude Tree. Already, the boughs are laden with reflection on the people, places and memories in our lives which bring comfort, love and joy. And in the words of our friend Piglet, we notice “…that even though we have a Very Small Heart, it can hold rather a large amount of gratitude”.

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