What a humorous animated short can teach men about evangelization.
This short animated film “Happy” by Michael Lewicki at the Vancouver Film School is a funny and endearing piece of film. Every time I see it I laugh. Every time I show it to another person, they laugh. Bravo, Michael, bravo.
Now, I’ll admit, while I can appreciate “high brow” humor, the fact that both of my parents are/were first generation blue collar immigrants gives me a certain appreciation for “low-brow” humor. Scatalogical jokes make me laugh.
Combining my “happiness” from “Happy and the strong desire to answer Christ’s call to evangelize, it struck me that perhaps there might be some lessons from this film for evangelization. So here goes.
The film opens with the Blue Guy, clearly having a bad day: he’s been punched in the eye and finds himself all alone.
The world is absolutely filled with our brothers who are hurting and lonely. While they might not always have a black eye, many of the walking wounded are all around us. Despite the fact that the sun is out, the birds are signing and the Blue Guy finds himself in nature, he is hurting.
The Yellow Guy, who appears to be perhaps older, is a happy Guy, whistling and minding his own business. But somehow, despite heading in the opposite direction, he sees the Blue Guy.
How often do we see our hurting brothers? How often do we look? The Happy Yellow Guy perhaps is more perceptive than most, for he is happy, a happiness that I would argue is the result of the Holy Spirit filling the Yellow Guy with joy. And awareness.
The Yellow Guy is at first apprehensive, in fact, he is so uncomfortable facing the pain of the Blue Guy that he is off-balanced and falls on his face. The Blue Guy doesn’t respond.
Pain and suffering throws us off balance. Too often we are hesitant to attempt to console a brother, afraid to say something for something might be the wrong thing to say. Some good advice, just showing up and being with a brother is often the consolation most needed. While Yellow Guy doesn’t pray, praying is the guarantee that Jesus Christ will send the Holy Spirit to give us the right words to say. As always, Pray!
After getting up a bit annoyed because he fell on his face, Yellow Guy shakes it off and returns to focus on the Blue Guy. He ponders the situation, gets an idea, screams like a little girl (it is funny, for it is the opposite of Yellow Guy’s man voice…but certainly not manly…my one editorial comment) and takes off.
Yellow Guy forgets his awkwardness and his own pain and acts. Each man has his own pain and his own distractions and demands, but we must rise above them to really see those in greater need. Notice the joy (so much that Yellow Guy squeals and is overcome with happiness) that Yellow Guy has when he comes up with an idea to help Blue Guy? When we realize that we can help another, the joy is profound. It is time to act!
Yellow Guy returns dressed like a pirate, a comical pirate with not one, but two, eye patches and not one, but two peg legs. He does his schtick, “aaarrrrhing” with a rehearsed script. It doesn’t get the Blue Guy’s attention. When Blue Guy fails to react, Yellow Guy is thrown off and runs into the camera (a funny breaking of the story to show a third party camera is filming).
Again, we have to hand it to Yellow Guy for effort and persistence, but critique him because he is not really being himself. Here we see the common mistake that we make when we try to be something we are not. Some one who is really hurting, doesn’t want to see a fake character; men can see through the fake and counterfeit. And when men are hurting, silliness will not console.
Yellow Guy returns, this time pretending that nothing is up. When he thinks he has convinced Blue Guy that nothing is up, he tries his dramatic surprise: He slams himself in the face with a cast iron skillet. And again. And again. He gives himself a black eye (just like Blue Guy) and knocks out a tooth. Blue guy does not respond.
It is easy to want to distract a person who is suffering, rather than console them. Some, like Yellow Guy, attempt to be comic relief. Comic relief during times of suffering is a tricky strategy, for it can appear callous and manipulative.
Yellow Guy is back again, this time with a joke, complete with a Sylvester the Cat kind of slurping diction. Yellow Guy is so amused, he does a little shimmy dance of joy (go back and look at it..it brings a smile) and laughs with an infectious laugh. Alas, Blue Guy is not infected.
Men need to not make the same mistakes again and again. All of Yellow Guy’s strategies are based on distraction and not true consolation. This is not to say that any of Yellow Guy’s antics are not potentially going to work. But it is to say that when you try something and it doesn’t work, don’t do it two more times. Instead, in the face of suffering, Pray first. Pray second. Pray always. Rest assured, God is not going to tell you to hit yourself in the head with a frying pan.
When the joke bombs, Yellow Guy is exhausted. And then he gets angry, perhaps thinking, “Hey, Blue Guy, I’m killing myself for you, snap out of it.”
This is a really important lesson. So very often, our work of serving our brothers is thankless. If you want to be thanked by others, you need to find another thing to do. Evangelization and comforting people does not always, and fact often does not, yield immediate and obvious positive results. We often plant seeds we’ll never see sprout. And the temptation to be selfish, thinking, “Hey, give me some gratefulness”, is a very common temptation when we are not serving out of love for the Lord. This is Yellow Guy’s problem.
Yellow Guy spent by his efforts and still a little ticked off, goes over and sits side any side by the Blue Guy. After a moment, he gazes on the sadness of Blue Guy and “feels his pain.”
There are a lot of counterfeit men out there who pretend to “feel your pain.” Phonies. This is powerful lesson: always keep your eyes on the soul who is hurting, keeping your mind on their suffering and not on your own. You will be filled with the compassion, that will lead you to right actions.
Yellow Guy begins to truly empathize rather than just feel sorry. H e feels true sorrow and then takes a deep breath, surrendering the sorrow.
This is true compassion, to sit side by side with another, not making up slapstick or distracting actions, but sitting with a suffering brother. Notice how Yellow Guy is not doing anything but simply sitting with Blue Guy. Each of us, no matter how little theology and training we have, can sit with a brother that is suffering.
When all seems lost for Yellow Guys efforts, he just lets go. And lets a two-part long-short fart. It’s a good one. Blue Guy wakes up and is happy, so happy that he laughs till he falls over.
Yellow Guy, perhaps moved by the Holy Spirit, lets out a mighty wind. Ok, I know that was silly. But this is not silly. When we actually allow the Holy Spirit to be with us and move us, the Holy Spirit that Jesus promises to send and the Apostles experience with world-changing impact, fills us with a supernatural ability to console the suffering.
Catholic men: go into the world and seek out your brothers who are hurting. Today, and every day, you get at least 3 chances to console another brother who is suffering in some way. Be aware. Look for the opportunities that Jesus Christ has blessed you to be witness to. Seek the Holy Spirit. See your brothers. Walk or sit beside them.
And if you need to, and feel so moved, don’t be afraid to fart.