Friday, March 16, 2012

A Leak in the Dike

Maybe it’s because I’m longing for Spring, or because I saw the workers harvesting tulip bulbs near La Connor, at any rate, I got to thinking about the little Dutch boy who saved his village by stopping the leak in the dike. Everyone knows that story, at least in my generation we do for we heard it every year. Got hammered over the head with the lesson it portrayed.
My first experience with the story was in kindergarten. The school was in the next block and if you ran down the alley and jaywalked, you’d be there in a jiffy. But my mother was raising her daughters to be ladies, and so I left by the front door, walked to the corner, looked both ways, and then crossed.
Our kindergarten room was large and airy, brightly lit from many windows. Everything was built to accommodate five-year old children. We even had our own bathroom with miniature toilets and basins. It was like playing in a dollhouse. Early every morning, the milkman delivered crates of milk, stacking them in the hall outside the kindergarten door. No cardboard containers for us. Our milk came in little glass cream bottles. In the middle of the morning, our teacher brought the warm bottles in, handed out packets of saltines and straws for our snack. The chores were handed out on a rotation basis and being one of the helpers was a big deal. To this day I find the thought of warm milk and crackers comforting. I loved kindergarten.
After our snack, we had story time. We sat on little rugs on the floor while our teacher balanced her ample frame on one of the tiny chairs. She leaned forward, clasped her hands and said, “Once upon a time…” the words that opened the door to magic and wonder.
            And so the story about the little Dutch boy went like this…Once upon a time in a land across the sea called Holland, a little boy was on his way home from school when he saw a trickle of water coming out of the dike. The dike was huge and vital to the village for it kept the sea from taking over the land. The boy was small, the smallest in his class; a boy who was bullied and called bad names, too small to protect himself. But he knew the danger of the leak. Water, as necessary as it is, can be pernicious, always seeking a lower level, going wherever, doing whatever needed in order to flow. The little boy knew that if the dike broke, his village and all the people in it would be destroyed.
            His hand was small, but so was the leak. So he stuck his finger in the hole and waited for the experts to come and fix it. He was a hero. To this day he’s praised for his bravery.
            The lesson seems obvious. Find a tiny leak; hold it at bay long enough for the experts to arrive. Let them do the dirty work while you’re busy signing autographs and giving interviews. Hero for a day. That is the moral, isn’t it?


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  2. That may be the moral - to tell you the truth- I need to ponder it for a while - like you- got hammered with it in elementary school, but haven't thought about it for years. Although, now I am concerned about that tiny drip from my kitchen faucet. I remember the milk man and glass bottles. Where did you grow up and go to school?