July 2, 2008
Abigail Breslin, Julia Ormond, Chris O'Donnell, Jane Krakowski, Wallace Shawn, Joan Cusack, Stanley Tucci, Glenne Headly, Zach Mills, Madison Davenport, Max Thieriot, Willow Smith,
Ann Peacock (screenwriter), Valerie Tripp (Kit book series writer)
Picturehouse and New Line Cinema
'Kit Kittredge': The Sunny Side of Your Trial
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
Oh that we would never have to experience pain, discomfort, or hardship! How many of us Christians pray something similar when we are hard pressed and we can’t see the light of day? Please, God, take me out of these horrible circumstances. I can’t take it anymore!
And sometimes He, in His grace and wisdom, plucks us out of the hands of difficulties that threaten to kill our hope and our very lives. But more often than not, He keeps us in that crucible with the intent of strengthening the necessary attitudes, mindset, skills, and heart that He desires so that He can use us once again for His glory.
Yes, hard times will come. The Bible promises in James that we will endure many trials. So it’s never a question of IF trials will come our way, but HOW we will respond when they do come.
I once read an insightful quote from an author that said, in essence, trials don’t so much create character as they reveal character. Those incredible challenges simply magnify what is already in a person. If the person is generally thankful, then that same person in a trial, however difficult, will find a way to be grateful. They will try to see the “sunny side of the street”. But if a person is prone to blame and self-pity, that individual will likely become bitter in the midst of those same overwhelming odds.
This lesson couldn’t come at a better time for our country – both morally and economically. With gas prices skyrocketing, food prices expanding, and home foreclosures increasing, Americans everywhere are really feeling the pinch in the pocketbook. And it has thrown us into a tailspin.
How are we to respond to this outrageous economic downturn? Should we shake our fists in anger and threaten to boycott those high-priced gas stations? Should we grow more and more despondent as the media shares these “doom and gloom” tales of economic woes and the possibility of a true recession? Should we throw caution to the wind and keep on spending regardless of what happens – the old “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die”?
If you return to the book of James, you will clearly note that instead of bad-mouthing our circumstances or losing hope or drowning in despair, becoming mean, weak people, we are expected to have a good attitude while we persevere. Let’s read again these Scripture verses. I have them in two different versions so that you can glean a bit more of the wealth in this passage.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4, NASB).
Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience (James 1:2-4, NASB).
Notice that we are commanded to be joyful when we experience difficulties because it is only through those hard times that we can expect to get those character qualities we all want: endurance, steadfastness, patience.
What helps us stay sane in impossible seasons of our life is the hope that we can expect to get good out of it because God is doing something greater in us than we can imagine. We might roll our eyes, but don’t we truly want to be those fearless, strong, courageous people in the face of the worst that life can throw us? I know you are nodding your head “yes” right now. Well, that doesn’t happen overnight.
I find it interesting that this year Tinseltown would release a film that not only echoes our nation’s financial plight but pinpoints this issue of character in the midst of these trials. Instead of offering another sci-fi escapist fantasy or bathroom humor comedy or sex-laden romance, Hollywood offers a microcosmic look at what happens when middle-class America – that hard-working, honest section of society – can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps and families find themselves in dire straights.
The movie I am referring to is Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, a family film starring Abigail Breslin set in 1930s Cincinnati during the Great Depression that centers on the lives and times of Kit and her friends, many of whom have been negatively affected by the economy.
Though the film is set in a time period that’s 70+ years ago, it is striking how eerily similar the depicted events are to some of our current economic conditions: loss of jobs, business closings, loss of homes, and thrifty Americans trying to find creative ways to save and live a more green, eco-friendly life. Gardening was in back then. With food prices increasing, it’s about to make a comeback.
Wallace Shawn, the consummate character actor and writer who plays Mr. Gibson, the curmudgeonly editor of the Cincinnati Register in Kit Kittredge, had several things to say about the parallels between the Great Depression back then and the recession we are in now. What struck him first when asked to talk about this subject at the Beverly Hills film junket was how apparently foretelling Hollywood seems to have been in picking this story to highlight on film. “It is a fantastic thing that our movie is about people losing their homes. It seems that we were absolutely prophetic geniuses to come out at this time with this movie,” he said.
And considering hard times and a nation’s potential betterment because of those trials, Shawn presented this insightful look at history: “Hard times can lead a country to strength of character or it can lead people who feel threatened and turn to dictators….In this movie [Kit Kittredge] it builds character. In the Depression in Germany in the ‘30s, after losing the war and inflation, it put them in a bad mood. Instead of improving character, they voted for Hitler and they had bad consequences.”
But not so with our film’s heroine, Kit. She tries to take the high road. Whereas she could throw a spoiled fit, she instead tries to “consider it all joy” as she goes through her trials – albeit, not perfectly. She tries hard not to let her circumstances keep her from being a lady of integrity, bravery, and compassion for those less fortunate, like hoboes Will Shepherd and Countee, who must work for what little food they can get. She has enough hope to believe that out of her trials of seeing her father leave to get another job, taking in boarders in her home to keep the threat of foreclosure at bay, and selling eggs and eating less to make ends meet, her good days will return. She will overcome. In fact, she will make life better – for herself, her friends, and her family. She manages to keep her cheery disposition even when she could complain. That’s a woman of character, the kind of person that we as Americans probably need to be once again. She’s not bitter; she’s better.
People of character; people who have suffered trials and still look to the future with hope and goodwill – this isn’t just something we see being portrayed thousands of years ago during the early New Testament times or even several decades ago in our American history with characters like Kit during the Great Depression. There are people today who are also trying to stand for wholesomeness and faith in the face of disturbing circumstances. And they are doing it with fearlessness and compassion.
In fact, one such young leader makes her film debut in Kit Kittredge. Her name is Brieanne Jansen and she plays Frances Stone. Before playing a young girl whose family is facing foreclosure in the movie, Jansen suffered her own very scary personal family trial in real life. She and her family were caught in a hostage situation. She was only 4 years old at the time. Now 11, Jansen is stronger than ever.
In a letter made available to the press during the junket, she shares her personal faith testimony. She begins her letter with this thought: “My faith in God has brought me far in this world. All my life, I have never stopped trusting Him – even when I was held hostage in summer of 2001. Since then, I have learned to put all my faith in Him, and to completely surrender to His ways – even when I don’t know why He brings me to some places.”
This young Canadian who told the press during the Beverly Hills film junket, “I just think that helping your community is one of the best things you can do in your life,” has been following a lifestyle of compassion by putting on a food drive for her local food bank. At the time of the junket, Jansen said she had raised $1,400 of her $10,000 goal and 650 pounds of her 1,000 pound food goal. Something tells me that this young lady has the endurance and patience to see her goals met. She will overcome. She will make life better for herself and her community.
“It’s not about being popular. It’s not about being out there. It’s about helping others and what you can do with what you have to make it go that much forward,” she said.
So, we have heard it from the Bible and now we have seen it demonstrated both on the screen and in real life with these young, impressionable soon-to-be leaders.
Now, what about you? Will you be better for your painful experiences or bitter because of them? The choice is yours. It’s my hope that we each will have a little more “Kit” in our caboodle.
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is out in theaters nationwide.
Kitt Kittredge: The Movie
The American Girl Site
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More articles by Laura Bagby on CBN.com
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