Well begun is half done
When I was a child, I was enchanted by the music and the magic of the film Mary Poppins. She was my heroine. I wanted to live in a world where toys cleaned up after themselves and carousel horses left the merry-go-round. I listened to the 33 1/3 album that my mom got from Necco wafers until I could say Supercalifragilistic backwards. (…but that’s going a bit too far, don’t you think?! Indupitubly!) I learned about chimneys and caring for birds and bigger concepts like laughter as a healing agent and perspective is important.
Over the years I have found myself saying “Poppisms” – short aphorisms or sayings from the movie that embody general truth. One of my favorite Poppisms is “Well begun is half done.” It inspires me to get started. Sometimes beginning is the hardest part of any project. Beginning is at least half the work and yet I wish I could come up with something to encourage me to finish what I have started! Mary Poppins calls the first game she plays with the children “Well begun is half done.” Basically, the game is cleaning up the nursery.
Mary, however, keeps it interesting. Another Poppism: “With every job that’s to be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and –snap- the job’s a game.” When she snaps her fingers, the nursery cleans up after itself. When I approach a task, I try to think about how it could be fun, there are plenty of ways to find the fun in everyday life. Of course, fun looks different to everyone. One friend I work with sorted her book spines in rainbow colors. Another friend keeps a rubber chicken in her brief case so that when she enters a stuffy business meeting she can look into her bag and chuckle at the absurdity within. At the airport or in other public places, I like to make up stories about the people I see going by – where they are going, what they will do there.
But life is about more than games. In “Mary Poppins,” once the nursery is clean, she gives another Poppism: “Enough is as good as a feast.” At the end of the day, the best dishes are the clean ones and the best book is the finished one. The family is hugged; the pets are fed; others are prayed for. Of course I will always have more ideas than I can bring into reality, more projects to tackle, more friends to visit with, more memories to record and yet, I continue to learn whatever gets done, that has to be enough.
Poppism: “Never judge things by their appearance… even carpetbags. I’m sure I never do.” When she first arrives in the nursery, Mary Poppins surprises the children by pulling unexpected items out of her carpet bag, including a lamp, a full-length mirror, and a potted plant. The children are encouraged to discover the extraordinary within the ordinary, to look at the world through mystery and wonder. “Close your mouth please, Michael. We are not a codfish.” Mary subverts expectations. For example, she slides up the banister and in doing so she reminds us that it is good not to be too predictable. Likewise, the element of surprise is to be expected because God has a wild imagination. Jesus never did the miracle the same way!
Even more than not judging by appearance and learning to see the world with wonder is learning to see from another perspective. The children learn to see their father from another viewpoint; Mary shares another Poppism: “Sometimes a person we love through no fault of their own, can’t see past the end of his nose”. What a nice way of saying that people can be dense or shortsighted while still being charming. Mary helps them see things as others do and to care for things that matter to others. Bert even exclaims, ““There’s the whole world at your feet. And who gets to see it but the birds, the stars, and the chimney sweeps.”
“I love to Laugh”. Learning to laugh to lighten the journey is part of my favorite scene in the whole movie; when the children and Mary go help Uncle Albert and get caught up (literally) in the joy of a tea party, like it is a fizzy lifting drink! That laughter and happiness cause Uncle Albert (and like-minded visitors) to float into the air, can be seen as a metaphor for the way laughter can “lighten” a mood. (comparable to Peter Pan’s flight power which is also powered by happy thoughts.) Conversely, thinking of something sad literally brings Albert and his visitors “down to earth” again. Another song in the movie reminds us “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way,” that even if we get our feet wet, we must learn to take our medicine. There are consequences but to remember, it’s the sweetest things in life that make the less-than-sweet things seem liveable, and that in every bad situation we can find something good about it.
Mary always seems to know what to say. And when she doesn’t? “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
Well begun is half done. We are made in the image of the Divine. Whoever you are, whatever you are, wherever you are, you are well begun. Life is short. You may not even be half done. Share your gifts. And take joy, for one day we will be “practically perfect in every way.”