The Company We Keep
This weekend, Josh and I saw the movie Jojo Rabbit; a WWII satire about a 10 year old wanna be Nazi named Jojo, whose best (imaginary) friend is Adolf Hitler. Fully committed to the cause, Jojo’s world is turned upside down when he learns that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl, Elsa, in their home.
Over the course of the movie, Jojo falls in love with Elsa. Spending hours with her
each day, he learns about her history, family, culture, and heart. Eventually, the Nazi propaganda he’d believed was replaced by what he learned about her through their evolving relationship.
This is what happens when we seek to understand others; particularly those we don’t naturally like, understand, or agree with. When we choose to learn about them - not from secondary accounts or stories, but by stepping into their world – our perspectives change. We discover why they say and do things that may seem strange or wrong to us, and when we do, we view them through a lens of understanding, rather than judgment.
Unlike Elsa and Jojo, we have the freedom to choose who we associate with. With that freedom, we tend to gravitate towards those who are like us, because It’s easier to spend time with people you don’t have to explain everything to. If someone attends your church, lives in your neighborhood, or shares your political affiliation, you share a baseline commonality. You may or may not like them, but you get them, and they get you, making it easier to tolerate, if not befriend, one another.
With those who aren’t like us, however, differences can keep us from ever crossing paths. Meaning that if we want to bridge division, we must step out of our comfort zones, and into theirs. We may or may not be welcome at first, but over time, our sincere interest in and commitment to knowing them will have a positive effect on our hearts and theirs.
That’s how relationships are built - by knowing others and allowing yourself to be known. It starts with one conversation, one smile, one act of service – something anyone, anywhere can do. All it takes is an affirmative choice on our part, and a commitment to persevering, even when it’s uncomfortable.
I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if a young Adolf Hitler had met Elsa, instead of Jojo. Obviously, the movie was a work of fiction, but the principle remains the same. The entire course of history could have changed, with millions of lives saved.
Pondering this thought reminds me that I, too, have the power to build relationships that are world-changing. Neither Hitler nor anyone else has a monopoly on that power. And after watching this movie, I am reminded to use it regularly, and often.