Can't you just smell the lovely mustiness wafting from this wonderful old volume?
As often seems to happen, there’s been a nice serendipitousness to my studies and our family study time. I began reading “The Wind in the Willows” to the kids right around the time I started reading Stephen R. Covey’s “The Leader in Me” as part of our “Study the Classics” book club (click on “Groups” and scroll down to “Study the Classics”). Being immersed back into the Seven Habits gave me a whole new appreciation for the characters in “The Wind in the Willows”, and you bet I jumped on the opportunity to blend the two during KidSchool. When I asked the kids “Which is your favorite character?” the answer was pretty much “Toad, because he’s so funny.” But, when I asked “Which character do you most want to be like?” the answer was “Badger”. Even if they weren’t sure exactly why, they knew that Badger was the better example to follow, the one they wanted to be more like. In short, the better role model.
Badger is the consummate Leader. He sees what needs to be done and does it, though always mindful of the right time. He is the animal trusted to lead out in Toad’s intervention. His rightness and strength of character inspire respect and admiration in other animals. At the same time, he is infinitely kind and patient (even when, in Toad’s case, we might say it was not deserved). He is brave, forthright, and not afraid to act. He is the living embodiment of moral authority. In direct opposition to Toad.
Oh, my, Toad. What a sad, sad example of an animal. Toad is never responsible for his own actions, always a victim to the whims of the moment, never plans ahead, is completely disorganized, and certainly is not, in any way, humble. Nothing is ever his fault, even when he is clearly guilty of criminal acts. When he accidentally falls into uncommon good luck which inadvertently rescues him from his own ridiculous idiocy, he prances about boasting, bragging and bellowing about what he considers his own greatness and cleverness. Into trouble, he’s blubbering about how Fate has turned against him. Out of trouble, he’s taking all the credit. Definitely not very proactive. Dr. Covey would be horrified should ever Mr. Toad appear in one of his seminars.
We are ultimately left with a small glimmer of hope for Toad. He has promised reform in the past, which has not stuck. But, in the end he shows signs that he may at last be settling down when he chooses to refrain from boasting and bragging at the banquet. One can only hope.