Thousands of people need help. If you won’t help now, when will you?
– Sakae Jinnouchi
Summer Wars is a multi-layered film with a number of themes, including perseverance, redemption, the dangers of identity theft, family bonds, and doing what is right. But perhaps the theme that stood out most to me was the important of placing others above oneself (spoilers below).
In the film, when the A.I. unit Love Machine is at it’s height of causing chaos, Sakae (“granny”) sits down and calls her old connections in an attempt to help others. Sakae is helpful, but when she passes away, her most recent acts are suddenly forgotten. The family that revered her so much is swallowed in grief: some, primarily the women, bicker and consume themselves with preparations for her wake. Others, primarily the men, either mope or become frustrated (or both). Meanwhile, Wabisuke, who has caused immense family drama, has taken off again. The family has become absorbed in its own (considerable) problems, and in the midst of it, they display all the nastiest sides of themselves.
It’s not until an outsider, Kenji, stands up and champions Sakae’s values that minds begin to change. Gradually, the men begin to take action, realizing that even in the midst of family chaos, now was the time to work together to help others. By the end, the entire family, including the black sheep, join in to aid humanity, as their family becomes more important than in any point in their storied history. And as they put their online lives and their trust in Natsuki and the others, the family discovers another common bond – the putting aside of everything else to help others.
Soon, the rest of the world joins in on this lovefest. It’s ironic that the love demonstrated through selflessly helping one another is able to ultimately defeat Love Machine. Love, after all, has nothing to do with a machine; it has everything to do with the human heart.
What we might realize with our heads, but often don’t realize with our hearts until we’re in the midst of it, is that loving others is loving ourselves. I think Jesus knew this when He gave the “second greatest commandment” about loving others. After all, for Christians the purpose of life is to glorify God. We are at our height of humanity when we do so, and Jesus implies we glorify Him when we love others. So, we’re at our most beautifully human when we love.
There is a high that is associated with helping others. When we’re able to genuinely make a positive difference, there’s very little to compare. Many of us may have felt that way when doing charity (I know I have) or otherwise helping others. For instance, I felt really happy when I was a teacher was able to make a connection with a student that helped him or her. I’ll never forget when I found a letter on my desk from a student (who is now a famous model!) that said I was her favorite teacher. I never intended to feel good about myself by helping her and my other students, but that was the end result, nonetheless.
I encourage you to go love each other. In the end, relationships are, I think, the most pivotal part of life. Our legacy and our impact on the world is created by how we relate to those around us. Go contribute to a charity (here’s a list of terrific ones), either financially, through prayer, or hands-on. Spend some time with a stranger who is down on his or her luck. Or simply be there for a friend.
In the end, though we (hopefully) don’t do it for ourselves, we’ll find a reward. Like the Jinnouchi family, which laughs and celebrates at the funeral service-turned birthday celebration for Sakae while visitors are solemn and grave, we’ll find an internal joy fills our hearts when we just show a little love.
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