Following our own yellow brick road

In first grade, my son’s teacher read The Wizard of Oz to the class. I had never read the book, and became curious when Adrian recounted parts of the story that weren’t in the 1939 version of the movie I’d seen. Not long ago, we checked out the recorded book from the library, and listened to it several times.

In the book, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Lion, and Dorothy all yearned for things they thought they lacked. The Scarecrow wanted intelligence, the Woodman wanted a to be able to love, the Lion wanted courage, and Dorothy wanted to go home. They were all convinced that the Wizard of Oz could give them these things.

But as problems arose on their journey to see him, the Scarecrow solved them with great resourcefulness and intelligence. Whenever the Woodman witnessed injustice, he wept tears of compassion (which always caused a fuss, because everyone was afraid he would rust. Surely author L. Frank Baum must’ve known that tin doesn’t rust?). The Lion carried his traveling companions across obstacles and defended them when they were threatened. And Dorothy? She experienced “home” as being with those she loved–not just a place to live.

Long before they reached the wizard, they already possessed what they desired. On arriving in Oz, they discovered that the wizard was just a regular person who could not grant their wishes.  But he gave the Scarecrow, the Woodman, and the Lion symbols that represented what they sought, and that seemed to satisfy them. He intended to take Dorothy home in his balloon, but the balloon took off without her.

Dorothy’s journey was the longest. Although the Scarecrow, Woodman, and Lion had already found what they sought, they accompanied Dorothy on a yellow-brick-roadless journey to find Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. It was Glinda who revealed to Dorothy that she (surprise) possessed the ability to go home all along. All she had to do was ask her silver shoes to take her there.

There’s a lot to learn from the Wizard of Oz. As we follow our own roads (yellow brick or otherwise):

  • We find that it is not in anyone else’s power to give us the qualities, characteristics, and things that we seek.
  • We develop the qualities we think we lack by facing the challenges that arise on our journeys.
  • Our life experiences transform our perceived weaknesses into strengths.
  • The shoes that have been on our own feet all along are the ones that will take us home.


One of Kris Wiltse’s illustrations from the Mixed Emotions card deck.

A universal language

When I was 28, I traveled behind what was then the Iron Curtain with friends. You know the part in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy & Co. enter Oz, and the movie changes from black-and-white to color? Well, crossing the border between West and East Germany was exactly like that, only backward. Everything became gray and colorless, and it seemed like we went back in time about 40 years.

We stayed with several families there–people that my friends had met through their church. Sitting at their kitchen tables behind the Iron Curtain enabled me to confirm that Sting was right. The Russians (or in this case, the East Germans) really did love their children, too. They experienced joy, grief, and fear just like I did. And a Berlin Wall in my own heart came tumbling down.

That’s when I realized that our emotions are a universal language. No matter where we live or what language we speak, what we feel is exactly the same. And that makes us One.

Loving (platonic)

Kris Wiltse’s illustration for the “Loving” card from the Mixed Emotions deck.