Lessons from Les Mis

Originally a book that was then made into a Broadway musical has now been transformed into a beautiful motion picture that I would recommend everyone should see, even if you don't like musicals. The stories that are in this film are heart wrenching and thought provoking in so many ways. The conditions that these people lived in, the lack of rights and yet they were able to care for others and want to change the world around them. 
(I will give away a few parts of the story, but not the whole plot!) 

For starters, the main character Jean Valjean was sentenced to serving a 19 year prison sentence as a prisoners for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving nephew. Jean had tried to run away from the horrid prison where he was treated as less than human in unspeakable conditions, which had given him more years to his sentence. But lets be honest, if you were treated as practically a slave and forced to pull those massive ships into the docks, just because you tried to get food for your starving nephew... who wouldn't try to run away? Would you honestly let yourself be treated as less than a human instead of trying to get out so you can help your family survive? 

He was released on parole and tried to find work and shelter, but no one would have an ex-con live in their homes or work for them. No one stopped to ask him his story and find the reason why he had been in jail. They saw on his papers that he was a dangerous man and shut him out. Except for one man, a preist could've turned him in for trying to steal his valuables. But instead this kind and compassionate man saw the good in him and told him to do something with his life. To go and change. To be the person he wants to be. This one man who took the chance to get to know him and was accepting and understanding of him changed his whole life. One person who was kind, had an open mind and was willing to see beyond his past was able to help him realize his full potential. How many of us have been able to put aside judgement of others and see the good in them?  How many of us would look past the stereotype that someone has been given and welcome them into our homes and our hearts? How many times have we jumped to conclusions about someone and shut them out of our lives without even giving them a chance? 

A women, about eight years later works for Jean in a factory, trying to send money to her daughter that she had out of wedlock. The women at this factory put up with harsh conditions, poor pay and a man who is similar to what today would be called a manager's position who touches them inappropriately  A whole verse in a song is dedicated to how they have to put up with so they can put food on the table and clothes on the backs of their children. No women's rights. No worker rights. Horrible working conditions. And horrible pay. It's horrific to think that anyone has ever had to work in conditions like these. Horrible to think that a woman felt the need to do whatever the bosses or managers wanted or else they could be tossed out onto the streets without any thought. 

And that is what Fantine has happen to her, tossed out of the job just because the man discovered she had a baby that she was sending money to. Needing money to send back home, she turns to selling her body and even parts of her body such as teeth and hair. Working the streets, she is treated as less than. Those who have money don't even bother to pay attention to her or any of the other homeless people. Those with money see the homeless as something less than human. The homeless even sing out towards those who are more privileged singing these words: 
Look down and see the beggars at your feetLook down and show some mercy if you canLook down and see the sweepings of the streetLook down, look down,Upon your fellow man!
But no one does. They are not viewed as fellow men. They are not even viewed as human. Homeless were judged then just as they are now. 'It's their fault they are there.' 'They could get a job.' But Les Miserables has showed that it isn't always their fault. And just like the man named Jean, getting a job isn't always so easy when you have people who refuse to give you work because of how you look, where you're from or your past. How many times have you driven by a beggar on the street and actually looked at them? When was the last time you gave to a homeless shelter? When was the last time you worked at a soup kitchen?  Look upon your fellow men. 

There are many lessons that can come from this movie, and statements about society that people should really think hard about. But the last one I wanted to talk about was the men who took part in the Revolution. The whole city was supporting them, rallying together to prepare for the Revolution. But when the time came, most shut their doors on them and refused to help them. As men and young children died in the streets and the fighters for freedom asked for their neighbors to help, they were locked out of buildings and left to fend for themselves. Scared of getting killed themselves, scared of getting punished by the government for standing up against them, people who supported the cause did nothing to help those who were brave enough to fight the fight. I'm sure we all would like to think that if we were in that position, we would bravely risk our lives for the freedom these men fought to have. But how many of us really would? How many of us would have stood out in front of that huge army and risked our lives instead of finding shelter in our homes and waiting till the battle was over? How many of us would've opened up our doors to let the freedom fighters find refuge in our homes, even though we knew we would get killed for doing so? 

At the end of the movie, a song is played as all the men who lost their lives in the battle for Revolution stand together and then the theater goes silent as everyone's breath is taken away. A movie about friendship, second chances, fighting for freedom and young love takes everyone's breaths away. A movie that makes you realize just how far we have come in some aspects but still need to work on in others. So let's keep working on the things we need to change about in our world. Let us keep working on bringing acceptance into this world. Let us start with ourselves. How about our New Year's Resolutions focuses on being less judgmental of others, giving people a second chance and realizing that we are all human and we all deserve to be treated as such. 

In closing, I'd like to leave you with the last verse of the Les Mis Epilogue. 

Do you hear the people sing?

Lost in the valley of the night

It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light

For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord

They will walk behind the ploughshed, the will put away the sword.

The chain will be broken and all men will have their reward!

Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?

Do you hear the people sing?

Say do you hear the distant drums

It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes

Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?

Do you hear the people sing?

Say do you hear the distant drums?

It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes! 

Tomorrow comes! 

Hope and Love,



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My Life As A Chronically
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