Cinderella has always been my favorite of the Disney princesses. Growing up without home video and cable tv classic I relived her tale through its music released on LP and reading and re-reading storybooks. In fact before I could read, I memorized her storybook, reciting each page and turning its pages at the appropriate moment as if I were reading it to myself.
I developed such an affinity for her -- even though Cinderella's movie releases occurred when I was an infant and then again when I was about 9 years old -- that I can still remember my delight in spotting her at Magic Kingdom parade and soaking in the beautiful mosaics of her castle there when I was still a preschooler. Sadly over the years I have watched as her story and many of the other Disney princess story are summed up as simply a woman is in trouble until a dude saves her. It has frustrated me because in Disney’s Cinderella came many life lessons I have called on and striving to be a damsel in distress was not among them.
1 – Life is beautiful. Choose to find happiness in your circumstances.
Cinderella’s cruel stepfamily heap piles and piles of hard work on her without reward yet when we meet Cinderella she is carrying out her duties with a joyful tune. When she describes the clock tower saying, “even he orders me around” we know she isn’t in denial but she has made a choice to find joy where she can. And in the movie’s opening song we are told that Cinderella’s grace and charm shines through the rags her stepfamily forces to wear. It shines through the calloused hands and the fatigue of such a demanding workload. We have all met those people. People who are so happy we envision how perfect their lives are but then as we get to know them we discover that actually they struggle with many of the same if not tougher burdens we have but they have chosen to embrace joy.
2 – Don’t let others define you, push the boundaries.
Cinderella was able to catch the eye of the Prince because she didn’t allow her stepfamily’s bullying to define her. They tried to keep her from seeing her potential beyond serving them. In my little storybook when Cinderella dared speak aloud her hope to attend the ball her stepsisters quickly tried to squelch her. “How could you go?” they jeered. “You don’t have a gown to wear.” But once Cinderella had a gown off she went to the Ball. She didn’t get overwhelmed. She didn’t doubt her worthiness. She embraced the opportunity.
3 – Be kind to all. And when that kindness comes back to you, accept it.
Cinderella was kind. And she was willing to accept the kindness of others. I know it seems simple to say but over the years I have seen so many make their own circumstances so much more challenging by not accepting the kindness of others. Cinderella didn’t have to accept to dress gift from her mice & bird friends or the amazingly magical gifts from her Fairy Godmother but they were able to get her closer to the Ball she had been invited to and wished to attend. She let others extend kindness to her benefit and she accepted it graciously. And it put her where she wanted to be.
4—A Dream Come True happens when opportunity meeting preparation.
Cinderella didn’t quit. Her story is more than simply sitting around hoping. She woke up each day and did her best within it. She greeted the morning accepting her circumstances weren’t ideal but then she went about doing what was before in the best way she could.Cinderella made friends in these circumstances who then turned around and aided her. If she had simply pulled the covers over her head she couldn’t have met the Prince. If she had been unkind to the critters she would’ve been locked up in her room when the Duke came to find the mysterious girl who fit the slipper.
These qualities in her character inspired me. They are what I thought of as I picked my first formal dress doing my best to find something that matched her style, why her trumpet fanfare was my bridal march and a glass slipper held our wedding rings.
Now Disney is revisiting her classic tale I hope their story will bring Cinderella to life in a similarly positive way for another generation. I hope their Cinderella will be an inspiration to make the best of our life’s circumstances, never let others define us and always be kind.