I don’t remember when my obsession with American Girls started, however I do remember vividly being excited beyond belief when my mom’s friend Jill lent me a life-sized Josefina skirt I could wear (which mysteriously never made it back to her), and when I got the Samantha night gown, and the Kirsten doll. I recall rushing to the children’s section of the library eagerly looking for the shelf with all the little white books that had the different American Girl stories. I remember being ecstatic when I saw there was a Samantha movie coming out and when I was able to go to the American Girl store in Atlanta. There are so many memories of my childhood that include American Girl stories, products and characters…#wheresmysponsorship?
For those of you who may need reminding (or if you grew up under a rock… or are a boy), American Girls were a collection of dolls; each one had eight books to tell her story and each one came from different periods of time in America. For example, Kirsten was a pioneer who lived in the 1800’s, Kit lived during the Great Depression and Molly during WWII.
Their stories often revolved around a challenge the community was facing (for ex: not enough veggies during the WWII) and how the American Girl in question did her part to contribute to the solution (ex: starting a vegetable garden).
I’m not sure if their popularity continues (it’s hard to keep up with the culture of 9-year-old’s when you aren’t one) but I know for years when I was younger, almost every girl I knew owned and loved an American Girl.
A few days ago I was walking in Barnes & Noble and saw some American Girl look-alikes, the main difference was that they weren’t from different time periods but rather more like the average modern girl today. I lamented this as I walked by because I think much of the charm of the American Girl came from being immersed in a different culture that had different challenges which often put our own difficulties in perspective.
American Girls reminded us of simpler times; no Snapchat, no Instagram, no texting or videogames to distract us from real life. Just people, books and our imagination to entertain us. American Girls represented innocence and goodness. They were striving to do good within their little worlds and make a difference in a positive way.
As we get older, I think it gets easier and easier for us to lose sight of this innate desire we have to do good. We get so caught up in striving to achieve, our outward image, and just keeping up with the day-to-day responsibilities that we forget our true purpose: being a good person and living a good life.
Psychologically, a fulfilling life is that in which a person is using their strengths to help the greater community (Psychologist Martin Seligman found this in his years of research on happiness).
My challenge to you (and myself) is to consider what it looks like to use our gifts and talents to do good this week. It can be something as simple as trying to smile more at strangers or using your calligraphy skills to write someone a cute note. As Samantha, Kit, Molly and the rest of the American Girls remind us, the most fulfilling life is that which uses our strengths to be of service to the community.
How can you pursue a good life today?
Stay classy friends!