“He was a hopeful bear at heart.”
This is how Michael Bond describes Paddington Bear in one of his many children’s books. Are you familiar with the famous bear from Darkest Peru, who wears an old red hat, duffle coat, and carries a leather suitcase filled with marmalade? In recent movies, Paddington 1 and 2, this beloved bear has come to life on the big screen!
What has stuck with me from the movies is this: “He looks for the good in all of us and somehow, he finds it!” This line is spoken by Mr. Brown, a character who did NOT open his heart or home to Paddington. He was not welcoming. He insisted that he should leave on several occasions. But because of Paddington’s persistence to see the good in people, Mr. Brown can’t help but to start loving him and fighting for him instead.
This reminds me of the book of Philemon in the Bible. That’s a big leap, you might be thinking. But not really. You see, Paul is writing a letter to his friend, Philemon. Philemon owned a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus stole from his master and ran away. He met Paul in prison. We don’t know exactly how or why they became friends, but they got to know each other well enough that Paul refers to him as his “son” and his “very heart”!
Paul is essentially asking his friend, Philemon, to forgive Onesimus and not only take him back, but consider him a brother instead of a slave. Forgive everything! It’s a pretty big ask. But Paul sees the good in Onesimus, and he wants Philemon to see it too.
Well, that’s Paul. He was a disciple of Jesus, so that must have been easy for him. Was it? Don’t miss the weight of Paul’s situation. Margaret Feinberg talks about it in her book, Fight Back With Joy: “Though he sees the outline of his dark cell and the prison guards every day, he chooses to look beyond them.” Paul wasn’t in a happy place. In fact, it was probably miserable. He was surrounded by not-so-good people who had done not-so-good things. And yet, he finds the good in Onesimus!
What if, like Paddington and Paul, we looked past the surface of things and looked for the good in people? What if we did it relentlessly? Maybe we could see beyond the bad; maybe that could be a bridge to forgiveness.
In the end of Paddington 2 (spoiler alert!), because of seeing the good in people, Paddington’s family has grown to include the Browns, his entire neighborhood, a scruffy dog, and all of the hard-nosed criminals in the London prison.
The prison? YES. Just like Paul, Paddington saw the good in those prisoners, and they became his very heart.