I was watching Trolls, the TV series, with my 5 year old granddaughter yesterday afternoon. She loves her some trolls! And, I have to admit, I was kind of getting into the characters and the plots myself. Of course, much of my joy was inextricably wrapped up in my little grandgirl’s enjoyment of the shows. We watched several in a row. I guess that’s ‘binge watching!’ I did finally get her to take a nap and that’s when the inspiration for today’s entry hit me.
The last episode we watched was called “Big Poppy” and it was about how the lead character in the series and the movie named Poppy used to be a talented rapper. Only now, due to an unfortunate rhyming choice during a ‘rap battle’ with another troll, she was so traumatized that she can no longer perform on stage as a rapper. If you don’t know, rap battles are normally free style rapping where you make it up as you go along. That is a truly impressive talent and not many do it well. But Poppy of Troll-dom certainly can!
So, here’s where inspiration hit me right between the eyes. Yesterday’s Gospel reading is the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes. Blessed are the Peacemakers has always been a favorite of mine. Peacemakers are few and far between and the distance between them grows with every passing year. See, the rappers in the world of trolls have to compliment the other person in rhythmic verse. It’s not about tearing down or belittling, criticizing, or condemning others. It’s not about name calling and wishing bad things on another troll. Rapper trolls are meant to be kind to each other and are determined to do so. You could say they are natural peacemakers.
Poor little Poppy, whose rap name is “Big Poppy,” but she really is tiny like most other trolls. She unintentionally mocked her opponent in a flurry of rhymes which is understandable as it’s hard to make up clever rhymes on the spot! She made fun of his ears, the size of them actually. Everyone was horrified. And she left the stage in shame and embarrassment, so very angry with herself. In the end, she figures out that she has made amends and even goes back for another rap battle agains the same opponent. And this time she beats him, with some of the nicest things one troll could ever say about another, in grand style.
Wherever this make believe community of trolls lives, and no matter how imaginary, I still wish we could all be more like the trolls in that cartoon. Can you imagine a more positive, productive environment in which to live? Poppy is mortified that she would make fun of another troll, even one she was competing against.
This is not just civility, but a real desire to ensure that everyone is enjoying this public display of entertainment and social interaction. That really does sound like fantasy in today’s divided world, doesn’t it? In too many public settings there is no desire to be polite, to be kind, to stay away from base and destructive comments intended to wound and whip up the fury and hatred one group feels for another. In short, there is no desire for the help of a Peacemaker. Very few people seem to want to love one another or understand each other.
Very few people seem to even attempt to have a polite conversation with anyone who they know does not share their values and beliefs – about anything. And some, those who are particularly strident and filled with venom as evidenced by their speech and actions, seem to want to suppress the right to speak for those who think differently. There can be no peace without a conscious effort to listen.
When a TV show for kids is concerned about kindness and compassion and its characters’ behavior leads me to draw a comparison with the Gospel than does anyone I’m seeing in the news lately, it could be depressing. But I continue to have hope in the many small acts of love and kindness that occur every day that don’t make it on the news or on to social media.
There are more examples of the good than the bad, but they don’t get nearly the attention they deserve. I believe that. Do not lose heart. I wish that more people were kind out of their love of God, but they do it because they are yearning for, seeking, the good. and that is encouraging. Maybe it’s the job of believers to let them know where to find the ultimate Good. A good place to start is with the Beatitudes…