From Enjolras (that is, the curly-haired, radical Goldilocks hellbent on much-needed political reformation) to Éponine (Ms. Friendzone of the Year) to Javert and Valjean (Tom and Jerry basically), there’s something quite magical in the sheer amount of positivity present amidst so many dead bodies in Les Misérables.
(This movie has been out for two years, and the musical out even longer. So if this is news to you, my conscience is clear.)
Aside from the fact that they all die horrible, gruesome, and sad deaths (and in more ways than one, too), the story did have a happy ending. It just wasn’t what everyone expected it would be.
A man who spent his life in pursuit of justice and rightness, a man of the law, eventually loses himself tragically.
A man, a revolutionary who spent his young life trying to overthrow the injustice of the powers that be, gets himself and his friends killed in battle.
But the man, the criminal, who has done nothing but simply help his neighbors, care for the unwanted prostitute and the orphan, he is the one who receives his reward. And ultimately, he is the one who also makes the most difference. He is the one who leaves a legacy.
We spend so much time trying to pursue the big things thinking that we’re doing the most change, making the most impact, but we forget that it’s in our small, everyday decisions that our hearts are revealed. We strive so hard to claim what the world calls “success” in its eyes that we lose ourselves in the pursuit of it. And we forget:
I can be the CEO of a powerful corporation, but if I neglect my brother when he needs an encouraging word, I am nothing.
I can be the most influential blogger, the most popular Youtuber, the most in-demand speaker in all of the known world, but if I care not to help my mom wash the dishes when she is tired, I am nothing.
I can be the most beloved, most popular public figure out there, but if I do not hold my tongue when I am angry in order to spare someone pain and hurt, I am nothing.
I can reach everything that I have ever wanted to reach, be everything that I have ever wanted to be. But at the end of the day, if I hold on to these things more than I hold on to love and compassion, then I am nothing. Because at the end of our lives, happiness does not come from status or achievements or the bank or our narcissistic righteousness. The best things in life aren’t things; they are hugs and laughter and memories. Happiness comes from taking care of the relationships around us, losing ourselves in love and spreading hope despite our self-obsessed, self-serving culture. Happiness is the connection between two human beings, the silent actions that say “I am with you, brother”, “You are important to me”, “I see your soul”, “I love you, regardless of all”.
This is a decision that we must consciously choose every day we wake up. It takes sacrifice to set aside the “I”s for the “you”s and the “we”s. It is giving and giving away for nothing in return. But love was never easy anyway, and the beauty is often in the challenge.
It’s the greatest paradox and an even greater revelation to discover. When we choose the grit and struggle of love over the comfort of living for ourselves, it is only then that we find what life is really about. Only then do we find what our hearts were looking for in the first place.
“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” — Luke 17:33