Who loves The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney’s version, not Hugo’s) as much as I do?
Goodness. It’s such an underrated movie, and it has an even more under-appreciated song.
“God Help the Outcasts,” sung by the gypsy Esmerelda, an outcast herself, never ceases to touch my very soul, to make me want to be a little kinder, gentler, or better. Its lyrics and melody combine to deliver a simple message: notice those who feel lost and cast out, and reach out a helping hand to them. Esmerelda also conveys a sentiment that I wish I could so easily adapt:
“I ask for nothing, I can get by. But I know so many less lucky than I.”
It’s so hard for me to “ask for nothing.” We live in a world where we are always asking for “more.” More stuff, more followers, more clothes, more experiences, more food, more friends, more…anything.
I’m so guilty of this. So very guilty.
I honestly have everything I could ever need, and yet I always ask for more.
I, and we, can learn so much from Esmerelda, the gypsy on the run who wants for nothing and asks for everything for her people, the “poor and down-trod.” She treats Paris’ ultimate pariah, Quasimodo, with the utmost kindness, despite the citizens’ initial disgust for the kind-hearted bell-ringer. She does all the wrong things for all the right reasons. She’s an outcast, yes, but she’s an outcast who creates magic through her kindness, through her friendship.
She also has a little butt-kickin’ instinct in her. She’s kind and gentle, but she can also stand on her own two feet.
Esmerelda’s plea to God can be transferred to all who watch this movie–we can help the outcasts, the people who feel a little out of the loop. Offer a smile to someone who looks a little sad. Hold a conversation with the little old lady sitting beside you in the doctor’s office waiting room. Make someone’s day with a compliment or a nice “thinking of you” note.
You may also feel like an outcast yourself; it’s ok. Everyone does. That doesn’t mean you can’t be helped, too–just know that everyone feels a little like an outcast from time to time, and begin to bloom just as you are.
Now going back to that “asking for nothing” bit. Yes. This is so hard. But maybe just start with baby steps: ask for less and less and give more and more. It doesn’t have to be a physical thing; give your time, give your effort, give your love, and give your sincerity. And, with our good deeds, expect nothing in return, just like Esmerelda.
Honestly, I don’t know why Esmerelda isn’t talked about as much as the other princesses and what not in the Disney bubble. She’s so strong and independent, a real spit-fire, yet she knows what really matters: kindness, justice, and humility. Esmerelda has seen some pretty rough things, yet she hopes for a more just society, one that isn’t filled with hypocrites that tear into the outcasts of her world.
We can learn so much from Esmerelda and the words she sings. It’s just that decision to put into action the lessons we learn that truly determine the course that we take.