I think I can: Lessons learned from the little engine who could

The classic children's book, "The Little Engine Who Could" teaches us how to endure the trials of life by developing five character traits: knowledge, strength, courage, faith and joy.

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  • The perseverance displayed by the little blue engine in Watty Piper’s classic, The Little Engine Who Could, exemplifies how each of us can face the trials of life. There are five character traits she demonstrated in the story that if applied to our lives will give us the same perseverance we need. When we recognize and develop knowledge, strength, courage, faith and joy we can reach the peaks of our trials and say “I thought I could, I thought I could.”

  • Knowledge

  • The little blue engine had the knowledge of who she was, what her purpose was and where she was going. She knew she was an engine. She knew she was designed to pull train cars. And she knew where she needed to go — the other side of the mountain.

  • We, too, need to know who we are, what our purpose is and where we are going. This can apply to each trial we face as well as life as a whole. We need to know we are children of a loving Heavenly Father. Our purpose in life is to grow and develop the talents we have been given. And our goal is to overcome each trial we face and to return to our Heavenly home.

  • The little blue engine also knew she was not alone in facing the trial ahead of her. She had the love and support of all the toys on the train as well. This knowledge that others stood beside her helped her to complete her task.

  • We also need to know we are not alone in facing the trials of life. We have parents, spouses, friends, and others in our lives who are cheering us on and want us to succeed. We have to help each other along the way. Knowing we are not alone will help us.

  • Strength

  • When it came to finding the strength needed to pull the train over the mountain, the little engine repeated over and over again, “I think I can, I think I can.” As she did so, she developed more and more strength as she went faster and faster. She had never done anything so hard in her entire existence, and yet she gained the strength to do so the more she tried.

  • As we try things that are harder than we ever expected ourselves capable of doing, we discover something about ourselves — we are stronger than we think. Overcoming trials and enduring well means believing that we have the strength to do so. We just need to reach deep inside ourselves and find that hidden strength.

  • Courage

  • The ability to go forward even when facing a difficult challenge is courage. What gives us this ability is fulfilling the responsibilities we have to the best of our ability. The little engine had worked hard in her original job of switching trains in the train yard. Because she never quit and had always done her best, when faced with a new challenge, she could do so with courage. She knew she could complete anything she set out to do.

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  • To develop the courage to face hard things, we must learn to fulfill our responsibilities in small things. Each small accomplishment we make builds up our confidence in ourselves so that we can overcome the mountains we face in life.

  • Joy

  • Once the little engine reached her destination, she felt tremendous joy as she exclaimed, “I thought I could, I thought I could.” She felt joy for the trial being over, joy for a job well done, and joy for those who were counting on her. The joy of enduring was not only felt by her, but by all those who cheered her on and believed in her.

  • James 5:11 reads, “Behold we count them happy which endure.” To endure well means our attitude was such that we can feel joy at the end. When we learn to develop our knowledge, our strength, our courage, our faith, and our capacity for joy we can overcome any challenge we face in this life. We, too, will say, “I thought I could, I thought I could.”

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Robyn Carr graduated in English and is the mother of five and grandmother to two adorable granddaughters. She currently lives in Windermere, FL.  

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