In the span of about five days, I saw the new Winnie the Pooh movie with my 6-year-old, the Broadway show Wicked with my 11-year-old, and Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the last Harry Potter film, with my 14-year-old. Those are some pretty disparate entertainment choices – the benefit of widely spaced children – but the funny thing is that they’re not really all that different when you strip away the smoke and mirrors. And honey pots.
Okay, Potter’s Lord Voldemort and Pooh Bear’s “Backson” aren’t quite in the same league, but the overarching themes of all three of these productions are the same: the power of love, the importance of friendship, the willingness to confront our worst fears, no matter how terrible, in order to do the right thing. As it turns out, whether you’re in the Hundred Acre Wood or the Forbidden Forest, life still comes down to choices — between darkness and light, good and evil.
As I sat in the theater with Chiara, who was just a few days shy of six, I soaked up her enthusiasm for the beloved Pooh characters as they bounced and rolled and waddled along, doing what they always do – getting confused, helping each other, searching for the one who can protect them from the scary stuff in life, Christopher Robin. And, for a little kid not yet old enough to know real evil, a colorful, horned, cartoon “Backson” can be just as scary as anything J.K. Rowling conjured up.
Even in Wicked, the awesome prequel to the Wizard of Oz, the story of the wicked witch turns out to be a story of friendship, trust betrayed and trust regained, and, of course, doing the right thing even when the right thing gets you exiled, or, worse, melted.
How often do we face choices that have the power to change the course of a life – our own, our children’s, a stranger’s. I’m not talking about life-or-death choices, although those sometimes come along as well. I’m talking about the little choices that can have a big impact: the words we use, the look on our face, the things we do in the course of our day–to-day lives. Do we choose light over darkness? Do we cast someone aside out of mistaken notions of who we think they are or ought to be? Do we let fear keep us from doing what we know is right even if it’s hard? Do we have friends to walk the journey with us? Do we constantly keep an eye out for the One who can comfort us, protect us, guide us onto the right path?
Some things are universal. Whether it’s a quaking Piglet fearfully going out into the unknown to save his friends trapped in a ditch or a stalwart Harry Potter unflinchingly preparing to sacrifice his own life to save his friends and his world, the stories come back around to the same lesson: We are called to walk this path with others, and to give of ourselves – maybe even all of ourselves – for those we care about. And even for those we don’t. Sounds a lot like the Gospel, doesn’t it, with some animation, great music and special effects to drive the point home. I don’t know if my kids got all that, but I sure did.