Amélie’s epiphanous decision to make people happy in small, simple ways. That was what her life would be about, even if that meant continuing her covert punishments of those oppressing others. As someone never described as a leader or joiner, but who likes making other people happy, I was in.
And I stayed in, so delicious were Amélie’s mitzvahs. She spots a visually-impaired man crossing a street and takes his arm; but instead of letting go on the other side, as I would have done, she pulls him along the bustling sidewalk and describes everything he would want to see. When she finds a rusty cigar box hidden behind a bathroom tile, she tracks down its original owner and watches, hidden, as he sifts through its contents and breaks down, so precious are the memories each bit of plastic or metal conjures.
On the naughty side, after hearing her corner grocer publically berate his developmentally disabled employee, she sneaks into the grocer’s apartment and sets his alarm to the middle of the night, exchanges his slippers for a slightly smaller pair, swaps his toothpaste for a similar tube of athlete’s foot cream. Call it passive aggressive or childish—and yes, she could have just found the bullied boy another job—but wasn’t it wonderful to see the grocer discover what it felt like to lack mastery of his world?
Amélie sees love, too, as a way we can make each other happy, and she sets up two highly neurotic friends (a stalker and a hypochondriac) to a hilarious but predictable end. She also finds someone for herself, scheming elaborately (there’s a Zorro costume, photo booths, and much more). He’s the right guy, too, even if he works at a sex shop and runs a rickety House of Horrors carnival ride (because of this, actually).
I still try to follow Amélie’s lead every day. Maybe I only smile at passersby, teach my children to always be kind, or write about people sweating in the trenches of social innovation. (Once I stopped my car to help a woman power her wheelchair up an angled crosswalk, and was so nervous about embarrassing her that I nearly pushed her into traffic.) But small gestures are like gifts in little packages. They make us as happy as the big things, whether we’re giving or receiving.
I hope you will accept my small gift of Amélie.
What "aha!" movie inspired you to help the planet the way that you do? Share with us!