Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Loving the Film, Little Women

Okay, I admit it: I absolutely love the film, Little Women. A few nights ago, on Jennifer's birthday, we had borrowed a few DVDs from our neighbors--the kindest people I have ever met. David and Jill have been married for 30-plus years, and one of their daughters who lives with them, Jemma, treats Tyler like he's her own son. They continuously bring little trinkets and toys for Tyler, and basically see us like we're part of their family.

So, when we sauntered over to borrow a few DVDs, Jennifer was very excited when she saw that they owned Little Women. And what perfect timing: her birthday!

Never having read Alcott's book (though having toured her Orchard home in Concord, Mass. with Jennifer and our little Tyler in tow--forcing us to leave the tour halfway through--I knew she was a remarkable woman), I can't say what it was that made me not look forward to seeing the movie.

After all, Jo was a writer, right?

And, it was about a family making it through ups and downs, and the trials and joys that a full life offers--right?

I began watching with this mindset: okay, two hours, and then we'll be through it. Maybe there will still be time to read before bed...

When the credits rolled, this was my mindset: Holy crap! Whoa! I mean...whoa!

During the course of the film, the March family had hooked me, and I was keenly invested in what turns their lives would make, and whether Jo would ever write the kind of stories that came out of the depths of her soul, as the kind German professor had challenged her to do.

One line above all stands out to me--though there were many powerful lines from the film. When Jo's very (very) old Aunt Marge passes on, Jo and her sisters and her mother walk through the massive house Aunt Marge had owned. She lived in it entirely by herself--and she was fairly miserable.

Jo's mother states the following regarding all that Aunt Marge had, and her perennial unhappiness in life: "Her blessings became a burden because she did not share them."


Is there any more succinct way to make that claim? If there is, I can't conjure it up. It fits beautifully with what Mark Twain once said: "To get the full value of joy, you have to have someone to divide it with."

And it all too powerfully brings back to mind a decision I made while I was an undergrad studying in England (many) years ago. I had decided to use one of the six week breaks from classes to travel Europe largely alone. So I flew to Venice, Italy (big mistake to start off in the most romantic place on the planet by myself), and trained up trough Rome, then into the beautiful Alps of Switzerland and the tiny village of Gimmelwald, and then into Germany and the history of Berlin and Wittenburg. It was an incredible journey--indeed--but I constantly felt as though something was always missing.

And it was.

The things I learned, the joy I experienced, the blessings I encountered along the way, were only half as good as they might have been. Indeed, the solitary trek taught me things about myself, sure, but the joy. The joy that I longed to share with another human being.

I think Jo's mother has it right: the blessings we encounter throughout our lives--whether as a result of our own hard work, or whether given freely to us--indeed can become burdens unless we choose to bless others in the ways we have been blessed.