THE CHILDREN’S BOOK The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes is too long to read aloud today. It tells the story of the established girls at school, the been-together-since-kindergarten girls, teasing the new girl.
The new girl who wears the same dress every day. The new girl who lives in the poor part of town. The new girl with a strange last name. The new girl. It’s a familiar story whether it’s girls at school, people in church, or friends on the job. It’s a familiar story of sides we take when we hear about events taking place that have gone viral. The established girls laugh at her, tease her, taunt her every day as she arrives at school because she only has one dress.
She defends herself by claiming she has 100 dresses at home. Yet, she wears the same old dress every day.
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THE STORY IS TOLD from the perspective of Maddie. Maddie is part of the teasing group. She worries that one day the group might make fun of her. She is not the best dressed. She is not from a well-off family. She’s uncomfortable making fun of the new girl. She could speak up to her friends. She could tell them to leave the new girl alone. She could suggest they welcome the new girl into their clique. But she doesn’t.
Maddie chooses to do nothing to stop the others and their humiliating laughs. In fact, she chooses to join in with the taunting.
Finally the new girl leaves school. A letter from her father states they are moving to a place where she will not be teased so cruelly. The girl leaves behind 100 drawings of beautiful dresses, dresses just as she described to the taunting girls. And she leaves the most beautiful to the girls who taunted her.
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BLESSED AND WOEFUL. We often miss who is who.
People in Jesus’ day often thought rich people were smart and good and poor people were dumb and bad — why else would they end up poor? That is often still the case today.
Part of Jesus’ point in this text is that poor people (or poorly dressed people), hungry people, sad people, and outcast people are as much God’s children as are wealthier people with full bellies, happy smiles and lots of clout.
Jesus says woe to you who believe appearance determines blessing.
— Keith Cardwell