July 23, 2020

There are a lot of memorable and sweet lines in the movie Elf—Buddy excitedly tells his new family about his favorite foods, “The four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup.” When he does something wrong, he calls himself a “cotton-headed ninny muggins.”  Buddy expresses such childlike love and inclusion when he says, “Does somebody need a hug” and “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

However, my truly favorite line is, “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite!” That line comes to my mind a lot these days as we all are being asked to cover our smiles (and sometimes our frowns or looks of utter despair) with masks.  I am truly impressed to see the creativity that many people have used to create friendly, inviting masks; masks that make statements or support their favorite teams and schools; masks that are funny and even masks made out of non-mask like items.  Companies that traditionally sell clothes or sporting goods, even restaurants and shoe stores, have all figured out a way to create practical, fashionable masks—knowing we will want them and need them to keep us safe.

None of these measures have come without a certain degree of controversy. I, like most of you, have heard the protests and arguments both for and against the use and mandates of mask wearing.  I have wondered, when putting on my mask for the eleventeenth time, will this help? Boy this is hot! And when will this end? But I do it any way and I think every time—how can I still smile with my eyes? How can I still connect with people and be friendly when no one sees my smile and I cannot see theirs?

Then I hear Buddy’s voice in my head and that funny, yet poignant line, “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.” The underlying theme for a lot of the movie Elf was Buddy trying to connect and relate to people. He wanted to fit in—with the other elves and then with his dad and new family and then with his new friends in a place where most people didn’t view the world with the same innocence and acceptance as he did. Even though he was scoffed at and doubted, and others criticized his happy spirit—Buddy continued to spread joy and encouraged people to get along and care for each other.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he reminded them to “live a life of love” and to act with unity and love toward each other. Ephesians 4:2-3 says, “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” He was reminding these people who meant so much to him—get along with each other, care for each other.  These are great reminders and encouragements for today.

We all need to remember in the words of Buddy the Elf, “There’s room for everyone on the Nice List!”

– Lori Hall, Executive Director of Missions