“Have Courage and Be Kind”
(I guess here is where I should mention that there are some mild spoilers below. But if you’ve seen any version of Cinderella, none of them are true spoilers)
On a rainy Saturday I went to a movie theater with my 6 and 4 year old daughters to watch the new live-action Disney version of Cinderella and was struck by how much death was involved in the latest incarnation of the fairy tale. I thought the film-makers did a good job of blending the saccharine sweet magic of what the Cinderella consciousness has become, with the live action sensibilities that could have gone full-cheese, but felt relatively authentic considering the source material. There’s no doubt that critics will moan about the lack of depth in the story and wail about the non-existence of feminist-forward principles of the main character, but as an attempted remake of the Disney animated version, I thought the tone was true. And the unquestioned theme of the film, stated over and over and almost crossing the line into the absurd is simply, “Have courage and be kind”.
But the death, oh man the death. Not one, not two, but three living parents that you see on screen die over the course of the movie. There’s nothing gory or visceral about the deaths, but there are plenty of tears and emotions and sense of loss to spare. My 6 year old’s first comment after the movie was that some kids may get upset about all of the death. Which is when I turned to the tried and true parenting method of just repeating the overtly stated message from the film we had just enjoyed as a real-life teachable moment. You see, we actually went to the theater with the family of a friend I’ve known since I was 10 years old whose parents both died before he turned 30.
It dawned on me that learning about the reality and finality of death early is a very important lesson. I told my daughters that my friend’s parents had both passed away when he was still a young man, and I asked my oldest daughter how she thought the death of a parent might impact someone. She responded that she thought death might make them sad and scared, and I began to think about my concepts of courage and came to the realization that courage is something that I often take for granted. The simple willingness to look down the barrel of life and be able to keep moving forward is a vital skill that at best is lost on most folks from time to time and at worst causes people to become frozen in time, fearing that if they move forward something bad will happen and cause them additional pain and trauma.
I spoke to my daughters about courage and the understanding that pain and death would cross all of our paths often in life and that trying to understand what that meant could help us to appreciate the time that we have to share with each other and our friends and family. I mentioned that my friend had chosen, not to dwell on the loss of his parents, but to move forward and create a new family for himself, with two of his own beautiful daughters and a wife with whom he shares all the adventures of his life. It was a truly inspiring conversation, and the demeanor with which my daughters absorbed the deep topic gave me hope that my wife and I could be doing something right. We spoke about how courage is the ability to cope with fear and sadness, about how courage is something that has to be practised and polished and earned. My daughters both seemed to understand that courage is not easy or free or common and I felt hope that when pressured by the difficulties of life that each of them would be prepared to at least try to be brave just like my friend had. It made me proud both to have the story to share and the faith to believe that my young girls understood the lessons the story conveyed.
And as we drove on, the conversation turned to kindness, especially courageous kindness, and the strength that a kind heart can provide when faced with difficult circumstances. We spoke about goodness and the golden rule, about how the rule is not to do unto others as they do unto you, but how you would have them do unto you. We spoke about the courage that kindness inherently requires and how important it is to not lose sight of patience and the belief that people can be kind to one another and that we can be those kinds of people if we work hard.
As we got close to home I looked out the window and saw that the sun was trying to push it’s way through the clouds. I was filled with happiness as I realized how my daughters and I had shared a spontaneous, important moment after watching a relatively innocent, innocuous movie about a girl, a blue dress, and death with the simple message to have courage and be kind.