Staff Columnist

I hope you find your Candy Land

I am very allergic to flowers. I cannot take a compliment. I think anyone who schedules an 8 a.m. meeting should be met with felony charges, and cauliflower trying to disguise itself as a healthy alternative to potatoes is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

I have a lot of faults and I do a lot of things wrong. I have a lot of opinions and sometimes I convince myself they’re facts. I trap myself in my own thoughts and forget to see what everyone else is thinking, feeling, saying. Sometimes I forget to help others first.

A month or so ago I read an article about how Candy Land was originally invented for patients with polio. A schoolteacher, also riddled with the disease and trapped in an iron lung of her own, saw how difficult the lives of the kids in her ward were and decided to do something about it.

So, Eleanor Abbot invented a game that encouraged them to use their imagination – the one muscle that wasn’t restricted. With their imaginations, they could go to the Licorice Lagoon, the Chocolate Mountain and the winner would be the first to the Ice Palace. The colorful board and imaginary places were specifically designed to encourage the children to think about their lives behind their current situations.

Abbot was not much better off than the children, sick with polio herself. She couldn’t walk, teach or do anything else physical she desired. But she could help children escape, at least in the mind, and she did.

She could not change her quality of life, mentally, but she could change the way others felt about the quality of their lives and it’s lasted 70 years. The game, invented in 1949, was my favorite one to play in my after-school program.

I could play it as a kid because I didn’t have to count or know how to do anything more than match colors. There is no skill to Candy Land, just luck. Just the way Abbot designed it.

She wanted to show children now matter the path, there’s always a different route to be taken along the way. There’s shortcuts and shortfalls, but those just help you appreciate the victory slide up the ice mountain even more.

Through that article, I learned a lot from Abbot. I learned that no matter what is holding me back, I can always find a way to help others. I can’t be around flowers, I can’t take a compliment and I cannot tolerate impostor vegetables, but I can put that aside to help someone else. Because it’s just the right thing to do.

I think we often put ourselves in our own iron lungs. We put ourselves down, we let others put us down and we forget that no matter where we are, we can still grow.

We live in times where we are so focused on our own pain instead of trying to help those of us who are feeling the same. The focus is on what we want and will do anything for; what’s holding us back; what we don’t take time to say. But isn’t there another side to this coin? Can’t we all do something for someone else?

So whatever your iron lung is, I hope you find your way out through a Candy Land so magical your soul is warmed in a house made of gingerbread. I hope you find a path that will take you exactly where you want to go. And if it doesn’t, I hope you find a new route that will allow you to help others along the way.