The new Cinderella movie helped me believe, once again, in fairytales. What first enthralled me as a little girl was “the sparkly”— ball gowns, talking mice and fairy godmothers. I’ve since graduated to the real reason why fairytales continue to capture the old as well as the young: our aspiration for goodness.
This particular rendition of Cinderella spends time focusing on her humble beginnings in the countryside with her loving mother and father. Cinderella’s family’s closeness and joy and is evident, and before her mother passes away, she tells Cinderella a secret to get her through whatever may come her way—“Have courage and be kind.”
This phrase carries Cinderella through a series of well-known unfortunate events—from the death of her father and mother, to the overtaking of her stepmother and stepsisters who strip her of human dignity by their cruel words and actions. Through it all, Cinderella keeps within her a place of hope that she retreats to in her desperate circumstances, managing to still sing and smile during each small and tedious task. There were times she was frustrated and despaired, but she always held onto a spark of hope, like the burning embers of fire that kept her warm at night. She seemed to carry every difficulty with such grace that I found myself captured by her and wanting to imitate her in my own life.
Cinderella allowed me to reopen the dusty chest of childlike dreams and peek at what is buried underneath. I had grown to see that what is hidden beneath the fairy dust is really our desire for goodness and steadfast character. We all encounter a transition in our lives when we are challenged to tuck away our childish fantasies and take hold of the “real world.” We are told to question everything and live to fulfill ourselves, but we eventually become cynical and frankly, not very happy. Meanwhile, our chest of innocent and treasured childlike memories gathers dust in the corner. How do we open it again amidst this harsh reality?
It’s simple: Have courage and be kind.
This was the secret weapon with which Cinderella kept the burning embers of hope and joy alive within her. And she isn’t our only example. There are many inspirational people, including the saints, who experienced sufferings and continued to persevere with courage and kindness. If you think your faith needs some “graduating” in this area, don’t worry, there is a simple way.
In the movie, before Cinderella’s dad leaves on his final trip, Cinderella requests that instead of bringing her back parasols and lace like her stepsisters, he would grab the first branch that touches his shoulder so that every time he sees it he thinks of her, and when he returns he will be with it, which is all she really wants.
Perhaps we want Jesus to bring us parasols and lace in our own wants and desires for our lives, when all we really need to ask for is Him. Jesus already brought us back a branch, through the cross, and with it, gave us himself. Through him, we find our true happy ending and the secret on how to live our lives with kindness and courage. As it says in the movie, perhaps the biggest risk we will ever take is not the sufferings we may endure, but allowing ourselves to be seen as we really are.
This life belongs to those who choose to see life not as it really is, but as it could be, who have courage and are kind, and who see faith as the fairy dust in this life’s fairytale.