“What is a bowl of milk? Nothing. But kindness makes it everything.”
– The Fairy Godmother, Cinderella (2015)
Cinderella is at a very low point in her life when she meets her fairy godmother. She’s suffered losses, and been slowly beaten down and ground into the ashes. Through it all, she has held to the truth her mother taught her, but now she’s been hit even harder and lower than ever before, and she breaks down in tears. She’s even beating on herself, really, thinking that she can’t keep holding on to the goodness within her, not in the face of everything that’s being done to her. It’s a pain that hurts worse than any external blow.
In her lowest, most miserable moment… a strange, old woman asks for a little help. Just a bit of milk, please. Though Cinderella feels that something is odd, she doesn’t hesitate, and not because of anything idealistic that she’s ever said. It’s simply because of a simple caring she has, even for an old woman she knows nothing about. Many, in her place, might be so caught up in their own pain that they refused, but, though she herself may wonder about it, Cinderella is simply kind.
The moment someone else is in need, she stops crying and helps.
That, I think, is the real magic of the story. It is the capacity to be kind, and the meaning which gives value to physical acts of kindness.
The old woman, the fairy godmother, says these words to her, when Cinderella dismisses the reason for her tears as “nothing,” and they are undoubtedly true. I that instance, it was not only the milk but the kindness she shared with a stranger which was valuable. So it is for many humble acts of charity and humanity.
For all of those in need, those simple, simple things that can be so easily dismissed are worth everything in the world. Some food for someone starving, some water for someone so thirsty, some shelter for someone who has none of their own, some work for someone down on their luck, some friendship for someone who feels abandoned and forgotten… yet it is not simply the thing itself, but the love which they exemplify which makes them so priceless.
A single meal is just that: one meal. One gets hungry again soon enough. But the kindness one receives with it, that is what the hungry man most remembers.
I remember this one time I was at work, dong my not-at-all-glamorous job. My frustrations were mounting higher and higher that particular day, and I was getting angry, fit to burst at any moment. Then an older gentleman spoke to me in that calm, soothing way that older people are so good at, and he simply thanked me for doing my job, acknowleging that there was always so much of it to do, and I was always doing it with a smile. I tell you, that one comment wiped out my anger and frustration, and made me smile all day! It made my day and I have remembered it ever since!
What are a few words of appreciation? Nothing. But the kindness behind them made them everything to me. It kept me going.
Interestingly, Cinderella receives kindness too, and caring. Her fairy godmother may conjure a coach, some horses, a dress, and slippers, but what truly makes them good is the care with which they are given. That caring is what renews the light in a soul that’s been beaten down, making it shine so bright and warm that it becomes a beacon to an entire kingdom, expelling a bit of corruption along the way.