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Mary Poppins and Her Wisdom

I know that certain movies and shows can bring a flood of childhood memories into our minds when they show up on television. For me, Mary Poppins, the Disney musical from 1964 does just that. It reminds me of a simpler and in many ways, safer time of my life. I can easily recall sitting on the orange shag carpet of my dad’s house watching this cinema classic. However, just the other day I heard a song from the film and I realized that it was a lot deeper than just being a catchy tune. I am talking about “A Spoonful of Sugar,”the film’s most known and enjoyed song. Mary begins to sing this as she tells the children that she is hired to look after to clean up their room. She knows that chores are anything but fun, so she explains that anything can be made into a game and approached with sweetness instead of gall.

The lyrics are so simple, yet meaningful and quite a metaphor for life. “A spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down,” is such a great way to approach the hard things in life. Why do you think that pharmacies even make special mixtures like cherry and bubblegum flavor to mix with actual medicine that children need to take? They obviously took a lesson from Mary Poppins. I propose that when confronting our issues in life, the spoonful of sugar can be utilized as a kind word, encouragement, and an attitude of non judgement of another person’s struggles. Too many times it is easy to point the finger and blame another person for things in harsh ways. While this may work and sometimes a stern approach can be effective, mostly it makes a person shut down and become non receptive to the message. I think of those old time fire and brimstone churches, pointing and blaming a person for their shortcomings. Speaking from my experience, this doesn’t work. If anything, the opposite of the desired response usually happens. Take a family member who struggles with drug addiction or gambling. Yelling, chastising, and threatening is a good way to keep a person stuck in that behavior. Brandishing the stick of punishment and condemnation only perpetuates the shame and guilt one feels and doesn’t inspire change. While sometimes the effects of another person’s behavior can anger another party and cause great dismay, approaching the offender in love is surely going to help rather than harm.
Why is the saying ” catch more flies with honey than vinegar” still valid today? It is for the same reason that Mary Poppins sung about. I know that when I was in the middle of active drug addiction, shame and guilt choked my spirit daily. I hated what I was doing to myself and those I loved, yet didn’t know that loving and forgiving myself was the key to unlock freedom and peace. When family members would brandish an angry tirade or would belittle me as a loser, my motivation to change would dissipate. The human mind hears that one is a failure and it gravitates towards more failure. Now, please understand that one must face consequences for their actions, but why pour lemon juice into an already deep wound?

Why is everything in jail punitive? They talk about rehabilitation, but in an environment where everything is punishable, how can one feel empowered to change?  Chances are the offender has already been their own self contsructed jail for years. A man is thrown into solitary confinement for weeks after having poor interaction with an inmate, gets releases, and does it again. Perhaps, learning who he is at the core, addressing the issues he has, and practicing positive communication would be the sugar he needs. A person enters rehab for help, gets punished for poor, maladaptive behavior the whole time they are there, is shunned by family members, then reenters society and does the same thing that got him into a facility in the first place. There is no difference.
If we could only begin to approach each other in compassion, understanding, and love instead of handcuffs and isolation, true change could spread like wildfire. While painful truths need to be examined and addressed, approaching it with a spoonful of metaphorical sugar could be the catalyst to help the masses. We all know how to hurl darts and arrows at each other, perhaps a lesson from Julie Andrews’ iconic character is due for all of us.

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