Everyone loves a good story. Last night my bride of nearly twenty years and I went to an evening showing of “Saving Mr. Banks”. This movie was a fantastic story and I recommend it to every parent and youth worker.
This story portrays characters brilliantly with all their strengths and flaws. I found myself making judgments regarding whom I could relate to and which people I would like to never meet. As the story unfolds, the two lead roles, Walt Disney played by Tom Hanks and Mrs. Travers played by Emma Thompson, reveal secrets about their past that influence who they become as adults. Once the secrets are revealed I began to empathize with the pain the lead characters endured. Minor characters revealed secrets as well causing me to care about them and understand them because I knew their story.
Every person has a story. Mr. Banks, the main character in Mary Poppins written by Mrs. Traver’s, was believed to be mean and grouchy by the Disney artists. Mrs. Travers helped them see they had totally misunderstood him. They didn’t know his story. What saved Mr. Banks was an author willing to explain his story. People usually don’t have an advocate to explain their story today. Judgments come quickly based on how people look and dress, what people say, how they act, and upon what they spend their money and free time. The challenge is that until a person’s story is known, “X doesn’t always mark the spot.” The behaviors a person reveals do not always make sense because their story is not known.
Parents and youth workers benefit by pealing away the layers and seeing the story that lies underneath their own kids or students they serve. Instead of complaining about your child’s behavior, seek to understand what is going on that is causing the behavior. Instead of being critical of the student who annoys the rest of the group, seek to understand more about that student’s story.
God directed Samuel as he was choosing a king to anoint for Israel in 1 Samuel 16:7, “Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The next time you interact with students, look at the heart. Take the extra step, invest in their lives, and learn their story. It saved Mr. Banks. It saved Mrs. Travers. It might just help you save the students you love and serve.