The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month

An Ethiopian legend tells about the incredible spiritual power of hope. A shepherd boy was forced to spend a bitterly cold night on the mountain. He wore only a flimsy piece of clothing. To the villagers' surprise, he survived and returned alive and well. When asked how he made it, he answered, "The night was bitter. When all the sky was dark, I thought I would die. Then far off in the distance I saw a shepherd's fire on another mountain. I kept my eyes on the red glow, and I dreamed of being warm. And that is how I found the strength to survive." The following videos can help keep your hope alive in these troubled times. They're both about individuals who overcome obstacles and, in the process, are transformed.

It All Starts Today is an engaging and soulful masterpiece about a kindergarten teacher in a small French mining community where unemployment is rampant. Daniel is a creative, playful and deeply sensitive educator who gives of himself fully to his pint-sized students. Because he cares so much for their well-being, he is angered by the mayor's indifference, the inadequacy of social services and the irresponsibility of parents who haven't taught their children how to speak or act in public. Luckily, he is able to rally the other teachers, a caseworker and a pediatric nurse in an advocacy campaign for the kids.

The inventive screenplay effectively conveys the courage to teach, which involves keeping one's heart open amid incredible tension. Daniel is swamped in a sea of troubles when he tries to help a poverty-stricken mother who doesn't have the money to keep the power on at her apartment, his father is hospitalized with a stroke, and his girlfriend's rebellious son vandalizes the school with friends. In addition, he is shamed by an officious bureaucrat who investigates his work.

One reason why this movie is such a powerful drama is that it makes the point that when you love your work, the only way to get out of trouble is to go deeper instead of fleeing. Daniel entered the eye of the hurricane and came out the other side with renewed energy. In the closing scenes of this French film, the children exorcise the demons of poverty, death and chaos with a party orchestrated by Daniel's girlfriend. All of the teachers, parents and students who participate have their spirits lifted by the experience (Facets, not rated).

Our Song is a salute to hope through an intimate and touching portrait of the daily wanderings of three teenage friends whose school in Crown Heights, N.Y., has been closed for asbestos removal. In their poverty-stricken neighborhood, they demonstrate their pride as members of a famous marching band, the Jackie Robinson Steppers, which is practicing for a Labor Day parade. As each girl struggles with what to do in the future, we stand by them and realize along with Jean Giono that "there are times in life when a person has to rush off in pursuit of hopefulness." That's exactly what these three girls do, and we wish them well (MGM, R for language, some teen drug use).


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March issue

MARCH issue:

All are welcome