Little Engine

You undoubtedly learned this story by first grade, but it’s still one of the best symbols of the power of affirmation. First published under the name of The Little Engine That Could in 1930, it’s actually a retelling of “Thinking One Can” which was published in a Sunday School publication in 1906, then retold in 1910 as “The Pony Engine” by Mary Jacobs in 1910–proving that really good stories keep on having new life! Here’s my summary:

Once upon a time a train was scheduled to deliver animals, toys and food to children on the other side of a mountain. The train breaks down and is not able to proceed. Two big, powerful trains refuse to help because they have ego problems. One insists he’s only used to carry passen-

gers; another says he is only used to carry machines. The dolls and toys on the broken train get very sad because they feel there is no hope. The clown tells them to “cheer up,” telling them that there are other trains in the world. (Notice his positive thinking). Another engine appears, saying he is too old or tired to help. The little broken down train and the dolls and toys became sadder.

Finally the clown spots a very small engine, which stops when it sees the clown waving for help. At first the little train engine is concerned about its size and lack of experience, having never been over the mountain.Then the dolls and toys affirm their determination and deadline: to get over the mountain before the children awake.” Touched by the mission, the little engine visualizes how awful it would be if the delivery were not made in time to the little boys and girls, so it agrees to help. The little engine self-talks himself with the constant refrain, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” Meanwhile, the dolls and toys on board provide positive reinforcement and encouragement in the form of cheers. The louder the cheers, the more the little engine tells himself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” And he does.Here’s some food for thought from this little story:


How do you sometimes get so caught up in your ego that you don't help yourself, or see the opportunities in problems presented by others?


How do you keep yourself tired or unable to do your best?


What motivates you to think you can, even when you don't yet have the experience of success


What kind of support best motivates you to keep on chugging?How do you stay on track when the going is hard?

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