We kicked off the Christmas season last week with our first viewing of Elf, starring Will Ferrell. I say our first viewing because, being one of our favorite Christmas movies, one viewing is never enough. We love this movie, not only because it is side-splittingly funny, but because the main character, Buddy the elf, is about the best life coach out there. Here are some of the things he taught me:
1. Accept Reality
Even when he falls 915 items behind in the toy building room and is finally told that he isn’t really an elf, Buddy, although initially discouraged (“I’m the worst toy maker in the world, just a cotton-headed ninny muggins!”), has a life-changing epiphany: No wonder he never fit under the desks at school…he isn’t an elf!
2. Get out of your comfort zone
But instead of crisis-ing about it, with this revelation, Buddy acts: He jumps on an iceberg and heads off by himself to ‘a magical land called New York City,’ a place he has never been, to find his human family. Imagine how scary that would be. But he does it because he knows he’ll never understand who he truly is without going.
3. Dare not to be cool
When Buddy arrives in New York City, he acts like, well, an elf. He giggles hysterically when the shoe shiner shines his shoes. He waves back at the guy hailing a taxi and he congratulates the patrons of a coffee shop for achieving ‘World’s Best Coffee’ status. He eats gum off a hand railing, pushes all the buttons to the Empire State Building elevator, and sings at the top of his lungs at Gimbel’s department store. At no time does he try to fit in or look like everyone else. Even though he is laughed at, he stays true to his authentic self, not worrying what everyone else thinks.
4. If You Want Friends, Be Friendly
Everywhere Buddy goes, he makes people feel good, from commenting on their names (“Fransisco…that’s fun to say!) to complimenting their looks (“You should be on a Christmas card!”) to offering affection (“Does somebody need a hug?”). Buddy doesn’t wait around for people to pursue him, he proactively seeks them out. He assumes they will like him and–guess what?–they do.
5. Don’t Take No For an Answer
When Buddy tells his father, Walter Hobbes, that he is his son, his father doesn’t believe him. In fact, his father is horrified. Wouldn’t you be embarrassed to think that this, uh, person, who dresses in a green felt suit and a cone hat, who thinks the four food groups are candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup, and who burps for a solid minute at the dinner table might be your son? But Buddy persists. After all, he has it on good authority (Santa, himself) that he is Walter Hobbe’s son, so no one can convince him otherwise. Sometimes you’re so sure of something you just can’t let it go.
From insisting that the fabricated North Pole at Gimbel’s department store isn’t the real North Pole to exposing the fake Santa, even though the people all around him look at him like he is crazy, Buddy sticks to what he believes. He is not persuaded otherwise, no matter how many cynics tell him he’s wrong. According to Buddy, if you really, truly believe something, stand up for it, even if it makes you unpopular.
7. Love Changes Hearts
Refusing to take his father’s initial rejection personally, Buddy woos him by making him a homemade card with a picture of the two of them on it, planning fun dad/son activities (“We’re gonna make gingerbread houses, go ice skating, eat cookie dough and…hold hands!”), and calling Hobbes ‘the best dad in the whole wide world.’ Faced with such unrequited love, his father’s hard heart begins to melt and he learns to love Buddy back. Buddy doesn’t berate him or sulk, he just loves and that love eventually comes back to him.
8. Exuberance is contagious
Buddy spreads his childlike enthusiasm for Christmas everywhere he goes. He turns Gimbel’s into a winter wonderland with snowflake chains, a Lego model of New York City, and a Lite Brite ‘welcome’ sign. He turns the mail room into a party (with the help of a little ‘syrup’). He decorates his father’s house with a tree that is at least three feet too tall to fit in the living room. He makes spaghetti with maple syrup for his family’s breakfast (and lunch). Everywhere he goes he spreads love and joy. Eventually, he generates enough Christmas spirit to get Santa’s sleigh–the Kringle 3000 with the short in the thermo-coupler–off the ground just in time to save Christmas.
9. Being Your Authentic Self Helps You Find Out What To Be When You Grow Up
At the end of the movie, the narrator announces that Buddy’s dad’s new publishing company was having amazing success with a book written by a new children’s author. The book was ‘Elf,’ written by–who else?–Buddy the Elf. We then see Buddy reading to a group of children about traversing the ‘seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest and crossing The Sea of Swirly Twirly Gumdrops.’ No one, but Buddy could have written that book. It was his unique and unapologetic story. And, as crazy as Buddy–and his story–looked to the world, it turns out that being just exactly who he was helped Buddy find his ‘sweet spot.’ If he had changed himself to fit in or to be hip, he wouldn’t have been his authentic self. But, as it turned out, his true self–curled green toes, sugar obsession and all–was exactly what the world needed from Buddy the Elf.
And that’s what it needs from me–and you–too.