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GRACE: “In this world, you must be oh-so-smart or oh-so-pleasant. For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”

Movie quote from: Harvey (1950) – Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) 

harveyElwood P. Dowd is a kind soul, gracious in every way to every person he meets.  In a world of people chasing social status, professional recognition, and/or financial gain, Elwood (James Stewart) is the only one unruffled by the trappings of image and personal gain.  But Elwood P. Dowd isn’t perfect. His constant companion is a six-foot invisible rabbit.  The 1950 film Harvey won the hearts of moviegoers and provides a compelling example of the great wisdom of living a considerate life. 

Grace is honoring others as you honor yourself.  It is tolerating and respecting the differences.  Grace is a shift in focus from ‘me’ to ‘us’.  It is appreciation that a kind word or considerate deed is a way of making your own world a better place. It is not laws or force that makes a healthy community; it is the graceful acts of people ‘stepping up’ when help is needed.  Ultimately, grace is love. 

In the movie Harvey, Elwood P. Dowd is the only person full of grace.  He is content with his life.  His character is pleasant, genuine, inviting, and undemanding.  Everyone he meets is pleased to make his acquaintance, once they accept his unique way of viewing the world.  He tells a doctor that “I wrestled with reality for 35 years and I’m happy to say I won out over it.”  It is unfortunate that the writers decided to make Elwood a social drinker, it takes away from the strength of a storyline that encourages us all to honestly be the person we are while concurrently encouraging others to do the same. 

Elwood’s judgmental family and community cannot see past his eccentricities.  His aunt decides to put him in a sanitarium to cure him of his perspectives.  This is the movie’s key act of madness.  It illustrates a key weakness of our academic-centric society, we pay too much attention to content and not enough attention to results.  Isn’t a gentle soul a worthy result of an odd world view? 

People like Elwood challenge our view, we are uncomfortable when someone’s reality is different than our own.  This film reminds us that it is the graceful honoring of others (Elwood calls it being “pleasant”) that holds a group together.  Our differences aren’t wrong, they are just a variety of ways of seeing the same thing. This is wise thinking for individuals and nations.  In a world of polarized perspectives, Harvey offers a refreshing reminder that grace offers a much more hopeful path than endlessly arguing who is right.

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