Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

Much can be gleaned from watching some of these old movies made in days long passed. In a day when the present “pop” culture flaunts its self-destructive, all-consuming, fifteen-minutes-of-fame practices, with seemingly little concern for what will be passed on to future generations, it is striking to take a peek back just 75 to 100 years ago. No, there has never been a perfect time or culture. But our culture would do well to learn from a past culture that was still telling creative, stimulating stories and building for the future, instead of consuming everything themselves.

For example, it is refreshing to sit down together as a family and see men dressing and acting like men, and women dressing and acting like women. It is inspiring to witness public propriety and mutual respect between men and women displayed upon the screen.

One of the reasons I want my children (and myself) to watch these kinds of movies from the past is that they are often heavy on dialogue. They are not just “eye candy” movies that leave you feeling flushed and breathless when the roller coaster ride finally comes to a halt, and the credits roll to a jamming tune. I’m not saying this type of entertainment is always necessarily bad, but it must be sparingly used– a steady diet of eye candy will not produce healthy people.

“Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” starring Robert Donat and Greer Garson, is one of those movies that offers excellent themes and topics to be discussed at the dinner table. Here are some that we took away from it:

-Devote your life to a righteous cause, to the best of your ability, seeing it all the way through. The story of the film revolves around Charles Chipping, affectionately known as Mr. Chips, who spends his life investing in young boys at Brookfield School. Even through some great hardship and pain, he is tenacious, and stays true to his good cause.

-A refreshing display of strong male leadership, and vigorous, full-of-life boyhood. 

-Chipping retires after teaching at the school for nearly 50 years, but agrees to return as head schoolmaster because of the shortage of teachers resulting from the first World War. As the war lingers on, Chips reads aloud into the school’s Roll of Honor every Sunday the names of the many former boys and teachers who have died in the war. It is an effective reminder of the heartbreak and horror of war.

-The rich history an elderly individual brings to society. I hope my children realize through a story such as this, that the elderly have lived a life full of experiences, and often have great wisdom for those who will take the time to listen. They have lived, and loved, and lost and gained, and they have much to impart.

-Finally, a life lived for the good of others, with genuine care and concern for others, is truly a life well lived. An outward-focused life holds lasting value.

As Christians, we know that these character traits can come though the Holy Spirit bearing fruit through our lives. We devote our lives to building the Kingdom of God by investing in the lives of others, as the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

If we spend our lives in self-absorption, looking within and always nursing our own wounds and hurts (which we do acquire through this life), no harvest will remain, in our own time, or in time to come. “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is a great reminder of this truth. Let it be said of us, in our time, that we were used of the Lord to invest in the lives of those within our circle of influence. We can trust that this investment will reap dividends, even in generations that follow.

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