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Lessons from the ‘Little Red Hen’


W. H. Wheeler & Co.’s popular 1901 First Reader includes this reading assignment:

A little red hen found a grain of wheat, and she said, “Who will plant this wheat?”

The rat said, “I won’t;” and the cat said, “I won’t;” and the pig said, “I won’t.” “I will, then,” said the little red hen; and she did.

When the wheat was ripe, the little red hen said, “Who will take this wheat to the mill?” The rat said, “I won’t;” and the cat said, “I won’t;” and the pig said, “I won’t.” “I will, then,” said the little red hen; and she did.

When she came home with the flour, the little red hen said, “Who will make this flour into bread?” The rat said, “I won’t;” and the cat said, “I won’t;” and the pig said, “I won’t.” “I will, then,” said the little red hen; and she did.

The bread was very good, and the little red hen said, “Now, who will eat this bread?” The rat said, “I will;” and the cat said, “I will;” and the pig said, “I will.” The little red hen said, “No, you won’t, for I am going to eat it myself”; and she did.

For several generations during America’s early history, students were taught using that “Little Red Hen” story. It, like many other reading lessons used in the schools during that era, was based on those same biblical principles being taught in the homes and churches across America. Still today, it promotes the wisdom and understanding needed for the preservation of our beloved culture.

Notice how closely the lesson in the “Little Red Hen” story parallels the instructions for “proper living” found in Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command with the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from any Christian who lives in idleness and doesn’t follow the tradition of hard work we gave you. For you know that you ought to follow our example. We were never lazy when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so that we would not be a burden to any of you. It wasn’t that we didn’t have the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘Whoever does not work should not eat’ ...”

Likewise, early Ameri-can history records a similar statement used by Captain John Smith (1580-1631) while leading Virginia’s Jamestown Colony. Smith had brought 104 English entrepreneurs from London who hoped to discover gold and reap large profits from their venture. After a four-month voyage, they arrived in Jamestown and began the difficult task of surviving in their new and unfriendly wilderness environment. Most were English gentry unaccustomed to working or providing for their own survival. Half of them died during their first year.

Captain Smith is credited with saving the remainder of the Jamestown Colony by teaching those who did survive how to farm and care for themselves. Those Jamestown survivors credited their lives to Smith’s frequent usage of, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat!”

Compare Smith’s maxim, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat,” to America’s current political atmosphere of entitlements, tolerance, political correctness, government benefits, and etc. Do not such comparisons confirm that America is drifting off course?

Give the Little Red Hen credit for correctly handling her situation!

Ken and Nan Webster have collected inspiration for many years from many sources, and now inspire readers of “A Matter That Matters.” Contact them at kennanco@gmail.com or visit www.kennancompany.com.

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