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3 important lessons for 2020 from 1947’s ‘Miracle on 34th Street’

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20061205 Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his role as Kris Kringle, here trying to help young Natalie Wood understand the meaning of Santa Claus in “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947).

Edmund Gwenn, left, and Natalie Wood in a scene from the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street.”

20th Century Fox

Editor’s note: Do the Christmas classics still hold up in 2020? We take a look.

If “Miracle on 34th Street” isn’t among your must-watch Christmas classics, you might want to add it to your list.

The heartwarming movie follows a Macy’s department store Santa Claus who claims he is actually Kris Kringle and an ensuing court case to prove whether the legendary figure really exists. It’s a holiday classic that has been remade and shown on television every year.

The 1947 film contains some lessons that remain important in 2020, three in particular that stood out to me after recently rewatching the movie:

People are more important than money.

One of the controversies Kringle brings about as the new department store Santa Claus is referring customers to other stores if they can’t find what they’re looking for at Macy’s. Store employees doubt his actions at first, but soon find customers appreciate the helpful gesture, resulting in more loyalty and profits at Macy’s.

This business practice may or may not be practical in real life, but it conveys the important message that people are more important than money. Sure, business may be important during this time of year — especially in 2020. Businesses are struggling because of the pandemic and need the extra cash to stay around. But people are the real reason for the season. Caring for others is one of the hallmarks of the season, and it’s something we as a people cannot afford to lose.

Leave room for creativity.

Kringle makes it his mission during the movie to teach the young Susan Walker how to pretend. A fun scene in the movie shows him teaching her how to act like a monkey.

This reminded me of the importance of creativity and the richness using one’s imagination can bring to life. Creativity is known for helping the development of children, and for enriching our lives.

This message has been especially important during the coronavirus pandemic. So many of us have been locked away in our rooms, waiting for the day to pass, waiting for the pandemic to end. We had to get creative to get through it. We needed to have game nights over Zoom. We had to meet in parks, distanced apart, with masks on. There were so many creative ways to spend our year, most of which required our thriving imaginations. Having an imagination is something we cannot forget.

There is good in the world.

Though not fully explained in the movie, it’s clear Doris Walker’s no-nonsense parenting style is influenced by past heartache in her life. She doesn’t want her daughter, Susan, to believe in fairy tales and have her heart shattered, too.

While there is merit in having realistic expectations, Doris’ heart is softened when she learns the value of “intangibles” like kindness, joy and love. This is an important takeaway for 2020 as well. Despite all the bad we may see and experience, there is still good in the world, and life is so much better when we focus on that.

The pandemic has been grim and tragic for hundreds of thousands of families across the world. Death, despair and darkness have lingered in our cultural atmosphere all year long. But we have to remind ourselves about the goodness in the world. Front-line workers have become heroes and superstars. Everyone has been uniting together to wear masks to protect each other. So much has been done with the idea of saving each other’s lives, proving that there is still goodness in this world.

Like the characters in “Miracle on 34th Street,” you can find the goodness in the world — if you just believe.