Friday, August 17, 2012

Lessons from Les Mis

On Monday I headed back down to Cedar with my sister and a friend to see a few of the shows again. We saw Merry Wives of Windsor and Les Mis (of course).  Merry Wives was charming as ever, but Les Mis had grown leaps and bounds from when I last saw it at its dress rehearsals.

It was fun to see the costumes I made again (like Fantine's dress below), but I didn't care nearly as much about the costumes as I did the story.

When I was younger I loved Les Mis on a shallow level.  I thought the love triangle between Eponine, Cosette and Marius was so romantic.  Eponine was definitely a favorite romantic hero of mine.  I loved "On My Own."  Don't get me wrong, I still love Eponine and "On My Own," but I've come to love the show for different reasons than just it's great romantic characters.  I love it for it's message of love - not of the romantic kind - but a deep, kind and charitable love that can be extended to all.

I cried through a good chunk of the first act, and then at the end.  The show just hit me like it never had before.  I ached for Fantine and Jean Val Jean's misery, yet the tears were also for the love and forgiveness extended to them.  I love the story with the Bishop, for example.  Jean Val Jean steals silver from the Bishop and when the police bring him back to the Bishop, the Bishop gives him the candlesticks to, saying he is innocent and tells Jean Val Jean that he has "bought his soul for God."  This incident influences Jean Val Jean immensely and inspires him to change his life around and spend his life giving back.  

I was amazed by the Bishop's kindness.  What would I have done if a scraggly looking man just out of jail came to me asking for food?  Perhaps that's not the best modern day example, since there is an issue of safety, but nonetheless, the same principal applies.  I should not close off my heart to others because of their past or their looks.  Even if they wrong me as I try to help them, I need to love and uplift them as this Bishop did.  What if the Bishop condemned Jean Val Jean instead of loving him and giving him the candlesticks?  Would Jean Val Jean have had the desire and the courage to change and leave his sinful life behind him?  I don't know if he would have.  It is love that changes and inspires people, not harsh words and criticism.  That idea keeps reappearing in my life.  I feel its truth, but struggle to actually implement it.  Watching this loving exchange made me want to be better, which perhaps only proves this theory even more.  Even watching loving relationships can inspire better action.

"To love another person is to see the face of God."

Those words, sung by Fantine and Eponine, are some of my favorite in the show.  What brings us nearer to God than loving his beloved children?  And to love them despite their background, social standing, money, marital status, looks, or lack thereof.  We all have a past.  Sure, some have a harder past than others, yet as Presdient Uchtdorf said, "Don't judge me because my sin is different than yours."  It is so true.  We all have unspoken pain and shadows that haunt us.  I hope that I can be more like the Bishop and later Jean Val Jean and love others no matter what.  

Les Mis touched me and made me want to be better.  I'm so grateful I had this chance to go see Les Mis at this wonderful festival.

*Pictures from theUSF website.

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