“I have to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer: have courage and be kind.”
– Cinderella’s mother, Cinderella
Recently, I stumbled onto some article online which disparaged the theme of Cinderella. I won’t go into details, or advertise them, as I prefer to leave other people’s poison to themselves. I just found it such a shame that they so completely misunderstood everything about this work. Especially what it means to “have courage and be kind.” They compared it to “being nice,” which Into the Woods uses as an insult towards the people who appear to be good, but are really selfish and deeply flawed. That is such a mistaken notion!
Bravery and compassion are not just “being nice,” or maintaining a “decent” reputation. No, not at all.
Courage is meeting the stresses of life, the terrible things that happen, and keeping your head, your nerve. It’s pushing past the fear that threatens to cripple you, and break you. It’s going forward, day by day, no matter how hard it is to do so. It’s speaking your mind regardless of what others may think. It’s taking a risk, when you need to, and accepting the consequences that follow. Cinderella displays that courage very well throughout the film, even though she doesn’t have any physical battles to fight or dragons to slay.
And kindness? Kindness isn’t just “being nice,” or courteous. It’s truly loving those around you, and doing things to help them, especially when they truly need it. When Cinderella’s fairy godmother appears as an old, feeble woman, begging for a little milk to drink, Cinderella instantly gives it to her, with no thought of herself and how she appears. She cares about this old woman in need. That is kindness. Also known as selflessness.
That is what this quote really means. It’s council to be truly good, every single day. Therein lies strength, the power to endure and overcome unexpected, terrible things.
The best part? We can apply it every single day in a thousand tiny ways! Speak a kind word to stranger, make a sandwich for your kid, take five minutes to read them a story, forgive your love for an ill-spoken word, give a starving man some food and a chance at honest work, help that friend of yours kick their smoking habit, thank the waiter for a job well done, say hi the bus driver… in short, be kind.
And have courage. Face life head-on, unblinking, unmoving, unyielding in our principles.
Of course, a bit of wisdom never hurt either, but that’s why we keep a level head, isn’t it? 😉