Confession time: I’ve actually never seen Dumbo before. Or if I have, it must have been when I was so young that I don’t remember a thing about it.
But after having watched it this weekend with fresh eyes, I have to say it is truly an inspirational and heartwarming film about a young elephant who realizes his full potential with a little help from a “magical” feather (and dare I say, a little faith, trust, and pixie dust?).
Dumbo starts off his life being heckled for his abnormally large ears from both other animals and humans, leading to his mother’s isolation because of her attempts to protect him. After being relegated to being a clown, he is shunned by his own kind then faces further mockery from being part of the clown acts. All this to say that Dumbo is severely mistreated and underestimated.
But as luck would have it (and some alcohol-laced water thanks to the clowns - by the way, is this rated G?) Dumbo finds himself in the company of some crows (their controversial portrayal being a topic for another discussion) who actually help him discover his ability to fly!
Even though at first, Dumbo believes it really was the magical feather the crows had procured for him that gave him his abilities, he quickly learns during a dangerous circus act that he had it in him all along. And not only did he use his ability to save himself from hitting the ground, but he made the show and the entire circus act into an enormous success.
I think that from Dumbo, we can learn that we may not always have the same abilities or appearances as others in the community that we are a part of, but that doesn’t make us less than or less a part of those same communities. As social creatures, we often seek to be part of something; we inherently try to flock together with others who are like us because we believe that’s what will help us survive and thrive. And in the midst of that, individuality can get stomped out. In our efforts to be like everyone else, we may just lose sight of who we actually are and what we actually have to offer.
When I first read this quote, I thought about it from the perspective of giving something your all. If you’re going to do something, do it right. And I think that applies here too. But I think what’s the more salient point being made in the film and in this quote, is that instead of hiding away from the thing that makes us different, we should embrace it and nurture that very difference. Dumbo may have had big ears that were unlike any other elephants’ and he was ridiculed for it, but when he really used them, he was able to soar above the rest, figuratively and literally.
We are each granted with our own unique quirks that make us special, and if we can hone in on them and cherish them, we won’t just fly, we’ll soar!