This past weekend, we took our kids to see “The Grinch.” When the movie ended, I realized that I probably needed this movie more than my boys did. As rosy as someone’s life may seem, it’s not always as easy and as glamorous as it looks. Social media can be so misleading and deceiving. I’m talking about myself, not just a hypothetical someone. Far too often, I allow the stress of “adulting” to get the best of me. And although I begin each day with a grateful heart and the best intentions, I, too, am guilty of snapping at someone or losing it with my kids. It’s so easy to believe that if everyone around us would just get their act together, life would be so much simpler. It’s easy to become frustrated with others when there’s a lot of “stuff” going on inside our own heart and mind.
I’m not sure if I just need to get out more, but I left thinking that “The Grinch” was one of the best feel good movies I’ve seen in quite some time. It reminded me of that poem, “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten,” because so many aspects of a successful and happy life really are that simple. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so before the holidays are over. Why? Because during this time of year especially, we often find ourselves getting caught up in the rush of parties and shopping deadlines, the pressure to buy the perfect gifts, wrapping up things at work for year-end, and the list goes on. It causes us to lose sight of what’s really important. After the movie ended, I couldn’t help thinking that it should have been called, “How the Grinch Saved Christmas,” because I counted at least five important lessons in that short hour and thirty minutes.
Lesson 1: Loneliness can turn a good person into a toxic creature. As the movie begins, the title character is everything the age-old story has taught us. Mean, grouchy, conniving, vindictive, and…alone, except for his dog, Max. Hearing happy tunes when his alarm sounds in the morning is enough to send him over the edge. Atop Mount Crumpit, he is a hater of the worst kind, planning and plotting to steal Christmas and the happiness of everyone residing in Whoville. I’ve encountered a lot of grinches throughout my lifetime. Heck, I think I’ve been deserving of that description on more occasions than I care to admit. I’ve also learned that loneliness can turn good people with genuinely good hearts into a modern day grinch. I see it most often in grocery stores here in NYC, where typically, an elderly person is rude to the cashier or others around because they’re alone and can’t do things fast enough, they can’t find things they need, and they have difficultly maneuvering in the chaos of this city. It’s almost as if they are crying out, “Can’t someone just help make this easier on me? I’m so tired of doing it all alone!” Similarly, as we experience flashbacks of the Grinch’s childhood, we learn that the loneliness of that time was to blame for his miserable existence.
Lesson 2: No one can steal anything from you. Things are things. They can’t steal what matters. Fortunately for the Grinch and all of us, this story has a heroine, and her name is Cindy Lou. For most of the film, she is determined to meet Santa in person because she wants to give her mom a gift that money can’t buy. She recognizes and appreciates how tirelessly her mom works to take care of the family and that she attempts to do so without any indication that she’s exhausted. I’ll have to admit, I teared up a bit during this part, as it hit a little too close to home.
At first, Cindy Lou was devastated when she woke Christmas morning. She blamed herself for upsetting the man she believed was Santa, causing him to steal their Christmas. At that point, her wise and selfless mom reminded Cindy Lou and rest of us that no one can steal anything from us. Sure, they can steal toys and decorations. But those are just things. All that really matters is what’s inside each of us. I try to remind myself of this often, not only at Christmastime. As I’m drowning in my problems, some of them big and real and some of them “first world,” and as I am tempted to blame others for everything that isn’t perfect in my life, I remind myself that no one can steal my love, my determination, my resilience, and my kindness. Most importantly, I remember that only I am responsible for my happiness. I can’t control the words and actions of others, and I often can’t control things that happen. But I can control how I react, and I can choose how to move forward.
Lesson 3: Be the better person. After the Grinch had stolen the gifts and decorations from every home in Whoville, Cindy Lou marched up Mount Crumpit, knocked on his door, and invited him to Christmas dinner. The Grinch was shocked and even expressed that he wasn’t deserving of such kindness and forgiveness and that he’d always been alone. Cindy Lou replied, “Well, you’ve been alone long enough.” Doing the right thing, being the better person, reminds me of a quote I once heard from Dwayne Johnson. “Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.” That Cindy Lou…she sure is wise beyond her years.
Lesson 4: Being unkind to others won’t erase the past and it certainly won’t mend a broken heart. As for The Grinch, he recalled moments from his childhood and realized that loneliness was the source of his anger and desire to destroy others. All this time he thought that making others share in his misery would somehow heal his aching soul. I hate to admit it, but I’ve had many days when I was down and felt like the world was against me. And I’ve been guilty of taking that anger, hurt and disappointment out on others. But it didn’t make me any feel better in the end. In fact, when my conscience caught up with me before it was time to rest at night, I felt so much worse. Being unkind to others couldn’t change the Grinch’s past, and it can’t change mine, either. It can’t undo events that have caused our hearts so much pain.
Lesson 5: Only love and kindness can change the world. Hate cannot. For the Grinch, his heart, once two sizes too small, actually grew and became filled with love because those around him showed kindness, even after a despicable act made him seem undeserving. Sometimes all it takes to change someone’s life is for one person to believe in them. That’s a truth that isn’t reserved for fairy tales. That’s real life. And that’s something we’re all capable of doing. During a season when it’s far too easy to focus on what money can buy, it’s important to remind ourselves that love is the greatest gift we can give.
If you’ve seen “The Grinch,” I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you haven’t, and especially if this holiday season isn’t bringing you the joy you expect, spend an hour and a half with this green creature. I promise you’ll leave with more perspective and hopefully a warmer heart.