What Dorothy, the Scarecrow and Crew Taught Me Tonight During Story-time

“Do you think Oz could give me courage?” Asked the Lion.

”Just as easily as he could give me brains,” said the Scarecrow.

”Or give me a heart,” said the Tin Woodman.

”Or send me back to Kansas,” said Dorothy.

“Then, if you don’t mind, I’ll join you,” said the Cowardly Lion.

”You’ll be very welcome,” answered Dorothy. So they set off.

— The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

We try to read aloud with the boys (and the girls, but the books are much more fun these days for our sons) every night. Our current book is The Wizard of Oz, and I crossed this passage tonight as we were getting ready for bed.

At first I read that exchange and thought, "What chumps!"

They are all "supporting" the Cowardly Lion's theoretical journey to see the Wonderful Wizard of Oz based on their own belief that he can fix their individual problem. But even in the arguments, they make plain what little evidence they all have for their quests.

Why would the Lion believe he could find courage from Oz?

Because the TinWoodman believes Oz has a heart for him. And why does the Tin Woodman believe?

Because the Scarecrow believes Oz has some brains for him. And why does the Scarecrow believe?

Because Dorothy believes Oz will send her (and her little dog too) back to Kansas. Why does Dorothy believe?

Well, ostensibly because the Good Witch told her, but let's be honest, Dorothy believed because she had no other options. She was lost and alone in a foreign land, with a sudden and undeniable urge to see home (the same home she'd wanted to run away from, but let's let that one go, it's hard being a teenager). She'd gotten "here" by magic tornado, and when offered a potential solution, she chose to be proactive and positive rather than complacent and pessimistic.

That kind of attitude is contagious, and the Scarecrow caught it right away. Maybe it was even easier for him to buy in because he didn't have a brain, but nevertheless, the message found purchase, and a second "can-do'er" was born.

With the Tin Woodman, they faced intractability and rust, two things that large corporations and older entrepreneurs often face. We can't change and we don't want to. When, in the end, all we needed was a little oil and some pressure applied to the proper joints. But even here, in the Woodman, once both Dorothy and the Scarecrow made their pitches, the band suddenly gained a little heavy metal.


With the Lion, it's easy to forget that before he joined the foursome, he "tried" to eat Toto. Of course, we all know he'd never have been bold enough to actually enjoy that bite-sized mini-meal, but he began his relationship with this group as an obstacle. An enemy even! Rather than just defend their own, and leave him crying on the side of the yellow brick road, Dorothy and her "can do-er"s started seeing solutions for this guy's problems, as well as his bad attitude and behavior towards guests in his forest.


They didn't let the Lion eat Toto and then tell him about Oz, Dorothy bopped the bully on his nose and told him to pick on someone his own size. But they didn't fail to share their own journeys and weaknesses with this sad King of the forest. They stopped seeing him as an obstacle and enemy as soon as he wasn't one, instead, Dorothy and her crew saw him as a potential ally and traveling partner, and that's just what he turned out to be.


So, is this a story about suckers? Is this all just an allegory for the latest diet craze or health drink pyramid scheme that your friends are selling on Facebook? 


Or, is it actually a story about broken people being open and honest with each other about what they need and where they want to go, crossing the globe (and deadly poppy fields), killing the witch and fighting off all the flying monkeys she can throw at them, and in the end, saving themselves and each other, even when it turns out there is no Wonderful Wizard behind the curtain? 


I'm gonna say it's that second option. And man, what an empowering message for Dad tonight at story-time. 


Together, my tribe and I can do anything. But you have to make sure, you're in a great situation like Dorothy. 


1.  Have the right people along for the ride. You'll need different tools, different skill sets and different weaknesses even to make it all the way to Oz.

2.  Don't miss the right people just because they're not on the road yet. Dorothy sought out the Scarecrow herself, the Woodman called to them, and the Lion tried to attack them. But none of the three were headed to the Emerald City before Dorothy and Toto happened along.

3. Having different goals in mind doesn't make you bad teammates, as long as you're all headed in the same direction.  Dorothy wasn't looking for brains or a heart or courage. But she was looking for solutions. They all wanted to see the Wizard.

4. The best way to help others is by being honest and open about what you need help with.  Meeting the Lion could've went a million ways. But after seeing his aggression came from fear, Dorothy and crew all opened up about what THEY were each missing.

5. Find your compliment. If you lack passion, grab a buddy who leaps before looking. If you lack forethought, pair up with someone who does his job like clockwork.

6. If you're homesick, sometimes it's easier to build a tribe than ride a tornado.  Dorothy wanted to get back home, and the Wizard seemed like her best option. In the end, she found "home" right there in Oz with her motley little band, just as they found their courage, heart and brains.


The other lesson from tonight's story-time? Read to your kids more. You'll find awesome business and life advice in there.


You might also discover that you've been wrong everytime in your life you've referred to him as the Tin Woodsman. Que sera.