The uncharacteristically cold weather in Stillwater has really limited my productivity (i.e. studying) over the past few days, which means Christmas movies with friends have taken precedence over flash cards. (I’m not complaining.)
As we sat and watched the Jim Carrey-Taylor Momsen version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I started to realize how realistic and relatable the story was despite its ridiculously Seussified characters and backdrop.
It’s really no surprise the Grinch tried to steal Christmas from the Whos.
Think about it: You’ve got the Grinch. He’s an outcast. The Whos don’t know much about him except that he hates Christmas. He hides away on Mount Crumpit, pushing away anyone who tries to visit. His anger pollutes his only relationship–one with his dog, Max–and his seemingly irrational loathing of the holiday season leads him to pull several pranks and stunts to try to derail the Whos’ holiday celebrations.
No quite understands him, and because of their lack of understanding, they fear him. They don’t really know how to act around him, so they choose to ignore him completely.
On top of their fear, it’s Christmas season. Who has time to worry about a grumpy reject of Whoville when there’s presents to be bought and wrapped and shipped? Everyone was too wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of their lives to even notice his stunts, let alone try to find out why he still hated Christmas after all this time.
Then along came Cindy Lou Who.
It just took one girl to break the norm–one person to really pay attention to this outcast, who had isolated himself on a scary and mysterious mountain. Despite the Grinch’s best efforts, he couldn’t shake Cindy’s interest. She saw a person and a story behind the Grinch’s scary interior, and she went to work.
In the midst of her crazy and busy day, and despite even some of her own Christmas doubts, she stopped. Rather than letting her ignorance morph into fear, Cindy learned the Grinch’s story. She wanted to know why he hated Christmas, why he preferred to live alone on Mount Crumpit.
We find out the Grinch has a broken heart. He never felt accepted, or like he belonged with anyone. He was bullied and mocked in school, so he retreated into isolation, his heart shrunken in the process.
Cindy wasn’t OK with leaving him in his current state. She saw his broken heart and knew it could be fixed. She saw the potential he had for holiday cheer. She wanted to make amends, so she invited him to lead a special holiday celebration down in Whoville.
And what did the citizens of Whoville do when he tried to make a change?
They reminded him of who he once was. They mocked him once again; they showed him that he could never escape the mold of their preconceived notions.
So it’s no wonder the Grinch decided to steal Christmas.
Did his hurt and pain justify what he did? No. But it definitely shouldn’t have surprised the Whos when his anger and pain materialized into stolen Christmas presents. They could have seen it coming–and maybe even stopped it from happening–if they had lifted their eyes from their gifts and celebrations, stepped past their fear and looked into the story of the Grinch’s hurt and pain.
Luckily, though his story started with sadness, it had a happy ending. As the Grinch realized the true meaning of Christmas, his heart grew back to a normal size.
(Notice that Cindy Lou Who’s efforts weren’t what fixed his problem. He had to change on the inside. But she was the catalyst for his heart change, and who knows where he’d be if she hadn’t stepped in and heard his story.)
So what can we learn from Cindy Lou Who and How the Grinch Stole Christmas?
Take a break from your busy schedule and keep track of your relationships. We’re all busy. All the time. But we should never be so busy that we’re blind to pain and problems in the lives of people around us.
Don’t be intimidated if you don’t understand someone’s problem right away. If someone is hurting, one of the best things you can do is listen. Hear their story. Resist the need to give them advice right away. Often people hurt because they’ve had no one to release their feelings to. And finally…
Don’t identify people by their hurts or broken hearts. See those things as just a part of their story, which is far from over. See people for their potential, and help them reach it.