LIVING AS APPRENTICES
You and your spouse and two children (a 10-year-old and a teen-ager) are dragging yourselves through the train station after a much-dreamed-about but unsatisfying vacation when you are greeted by a scruffy 3′ 6″ bear wearing a much-worn red hat. The bear says, “Can you help me? I’m looking for a home.” Your son is intrigued; your daughter is embarrassed; your cranky spouse just wants to get home; you are immediately drawn to help this sad, homeless bear.
This is the set-up of a delightful new movie, Paddington, which, as many children’s stories do, puts the moral issues of life smack dab in front of us. Paddington has come to London looking for the explorer in darkest Peru who told his family many years ago that if they ever had a problem they should look him up. Paddington has studied hard about how to act in London: he tips his hat to passers-by, says please and thank you, and goes out of his way to help the people he encounters.
But Paddington soon finds that the wonderful life the explorer painted of London long ago is not present today. People are not friendly. They do not want to help him. In fact they make fun of him, yell at him, or walk right past him – because he’s not like them. Learning the ways of London after living in darkest Peru is difficult. Even the father of the family that takes him in wants to get rid of him and his quest to find a home as soon as possible. His solution is a plan to turn him over to the authorities. Another character even plans for Paddington’s immediate stuffing and display in a natural history museum.
Paddington’s journey to find his place in a world that rejects differences is a story for any age, but particularly for ours. As we look around us with often fearful eyes, we see racial tension, class tension, religious tension, political tension, and interpersonal stereotyping. We are living, as Paddington found, in a place where the Kingdom of Me is alive and well.
But Paddington stays true to himself. People begin to see his loving nature instead of his fur and claws. His little family comes together around him (even the teen-aged daughter stops being constantly being embarrassed) .And after many trials and tribulations, Paddington finds a home!
Home. Isn’t that really what each of us is looking for? Perhaps if we can just give the Paddingtons of our world a chance, we all will find what we are looking for.
Note: If you decide to see this movie, try to take a child with you. Watching my 9 – year- old granddaughter giggle (!), squirm, hide her face in her hands, pull her jacket over her head, grin in relief, and figure out the plot twists before I did made my visit to Paddington’s world for 90 minutes much more delightful.