Redeem the Days

I’m convinced that every year a hole is ripped straight through the space-time continuum during the week before Spring Break. This week never ends. Students are wound up; teachers are exhausted.

To spare you the gory details of my latest Jonah day, let’s just say on Wednesday I morphed into jellyfish woman, able to zap any man, woman, or child in her path. This unfortunate series of events left me so frustrated that I suddenly found myself $20 poorer, sitting alone in a movie theatre, eating enough popcorn to make myself sick.

Yes, I had such a bad day that I spontaneously decided to treat myself to a second viewing of “Cinderella,” the new live-action version starring Lily James. There was something so beautiful and touching about this film the first time I saw it that I hoped my terrible day could be cured by escaping into the Disney-verse for a few short hours.

The mantra of this new Cinderella is “have courage and be kind.” If I’m being honest, the line resonated with me more than I care to admit. I cried through the entire film the first time I saw it. Rather than trying to justify my emotion, I started to think about its source. Why do I identify so much with a fairy tale I’ve heard a thousand times before? Cinderella was never my favorite Disney princess, so why now do I love this story?

I think it has to do with the refreshing, redeeming nature of childhood. The world of the film doesn’t deny misery and grief, but finds a way to turn them into beautiful things. Cinderella’s fairy godmother narrates the story and says that “grief can come to any kingdom.” The Prince’s aging father states that death is “the way of all flesh.” These are true things about our life and our world. Death, aging, misery, unkindness, cruelty—these are the gloomy inhabitants of my days. I see students treating each other with such cruelty and unkindness that it takes my breath away. I see students struggling to understand their emotions and the circumstances in which they have been placed. On bad days I want to run away from these bad things. The sad fact is they will be there tomorrow, too. These bad things are terrible by themselves, but they become more dangerous when I believe that these are the only creatures that will inhabit my world.

This, I realized, is why I flew to the movies again last night. I needed to remind myself that unkindness and sadness are present, but so, too, are joy, happiness, kindness, courage, and love. Ultimately I know that the source of these good things, the one whose mercies are new every morning, will triumph over all hatred and death and wrongdoing. My job is to remind my own heart to have courage and be kind.

Childhood teaches us that magical things do happen, that there is hope for even the vilest stepmother, and that simple virtues trump worldly wisdom every time. What better things to remind myself of on one of the worst days? I’m hoping “Cinderella” has a good long run in theatres, because I have a feeling I might be stopping by on my next Jonah day.

I paid for my spontaneity, by the way, with a debit card and a few hours of popcorn-induced misery.


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