5 Nuggets of Wisdom from Buddy the Elf
by Dale Reeves
Last evening my wife and I attended an event with our wonderful senior adult group from Christ’s Church. We enjoyed a great dinner and show at La Comedia Dinner Theatre in Springboro. The food was outstanding—especially the sweet potato soufflé and chef-carved meats; the fellowship with a lot of fun folks was great; and the production was filled with mirth and laughter, as it was based on the beloved holiday film, Elf.
The 2003 classic starring Will Farrell as Buddy has been entertaining us for sixteen years. Buddy, a young orphan boy, mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported to the North Pole. This would-be elf is raised, unaware that he is actually a human, until his enormous size and poor toy-making skills cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to discover his true family. Faced with a few difficulties he has to overcome, Buddy is determined to help his family and all of NYC rediscover the true meaning of Christmas.
This production has become one of the most quotable films of the modern era. Some people quote lines and gags from the show as a part of their normal language. For instance, one of the scenes pictures Buddy seeing a department store Santa Claus for the first time. At first he is thrilled to see him until he realizes he is a fake and in disgust he whispers to him, “You sit on a throne of lies.” He sets about to expose the impostor so innocent children will not be misled. By reflecting on five of my favorite quotes from Elf, along with some commentary from King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, I believe we can mine some nuggets of wisdom that would be helpful for us during this season.
- “I’m the worst toymaker in the world. I’m a cotton-headed ninny-muggins.”
In Santa’s workshop Buddy was way below the quota he was supposed to produce compared to the other elves, and he responded to his supervisor that he was probably the worst toymaker in the world. His self-image was crushed as he compared his skill level to those around him. Perhaps he just wasn’t working in his sweet spot, and needed to find an area in which he could excel.
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 29:23, “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (ESV). Buddy knew he was lagging behind in production and he was humbled by it, rather than making excuses. Humility is the thing that can help us fail forward, learn from our mistakes, and eventually find favor before others. Buddy needed to realize that inherently he had value beyond his ability to make toys. Knowing God has created you for a specific purpose can help increase your self-worth and instill confidence, because God doesn’t create any cotton-headed ninny-muggins.
- “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody!”
While in New York City, Buddy happens upon a coffee shop that has a neon sign on display in the window that states, “World’s best cup of coffee!” Buddy bursts through the front door of the small diner and exclaims to all the employees, “You did it! Great job, everybody!’ They all look at him as if they’ve never been affirmed in their lives and he goes about his merry way.
Is there someone today whom you can lift up just by thanking them for the job they are doing with some menial task? Affirmation is something lacking in the lives of many people we rub shoulders with every day, and it’s a gift we can give that costs us nothing.
Solomon says, “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up” (Proverbs 12:25, NLT).
- “Does someone need a hug?”
Buddy passes a raccoon in the park and the varmint snarls at him, then attacks him. He was just trying to be nice and give him a hug but it wasn’t received so well. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever tried to reach out and help someone but instead of accepting your gesture, they actually turned on you and maybe even used it against you? Your attempt to reach out in love and peace may have backfired, but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong thing to do. Sometimes our kindness to others is received well and sometimes attempting to love someone who doesn’t love you back can cause hurt and pain. If you’ve ever experienced unrequited love, you’re not alone. God sees and he understands all the emotions we experience.
King Solomon offers this wisdom: “A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself” (Proverbs 11:17, ESV); and “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor” (Proverbs 21:21, ESV).
- “There’s room for everyone on the Nice List!”
In the North Pole classroom for elves, along with the smaller elves Buddy recites three rules that comprise the Code of Elves. This quote is the second rule in the code, “There’s room for everyone on the Nice List!”
It’s so easy to find flaws in someone, or to find reasons to dislike someone, and often the flaws we recognize in others are the very same ones that we have ourselves. A paraphrase of Proverbs 11:27 says this, “Anyone can find the dirt in someone. Be the one that finds the gold.” Just like Buddy the elf, we should be looking to find the best in others, not the worst, looking for the gold that is just waiting to be discovered rather than figuring out all the reasons someone should receive a lump of coal on Christmas morning. Jesus died for every single person throughout history, and if he thinks they are worth dying for, we should look for the good in everyone.
- “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”
This is the third rule in the Code of Elves, and Buddy repeats it to Jovie, an unenthusiastic worker at Gimbels who becomes Buddy’s love interest. As we go about our activities this month, we encounter people who are having tough days. We may be honked at, yelled at, or worse, but often there are reasons behind the angst we have felt directed toward us. When we reach out to others in a spirit of joy and goodwill, it really can lift up spirits and be the very medicine they need.
King Solomon says several things about being cheerful in Proverbs 15:
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit” (v. 13).
This speaks to our internal cheerfulness, the attitudes we choose to cultivate inside us.
“For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast” (v. 15).
This speaks to a habit of cheerfulness which impacts the quality of life we experience.
“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health” (v. 30).
This is relational cheerfulness. When we convey cheerfulness in the way we look at others, it spreads joy to them. And even though God’s people are not elves like Buddy wearing funny leotards, hats, and shoes, we are called to spread his gospel of joy and peace wherever we go.