Every girl who has seen Disney’s “Moana” can easily belt out a line from the song “How Far I’ll Go,” while the boys will rave all about the power of demi-gods and shapeshifters. These takeaways come as no surprise as Disney films always empower children to find their drive to ‘go far’ and think larger than life. But besides singing the songs, how can children become their fictional heroes? Like Hidden Mickeys, the traits that portray the makings of a real-life hero or heroine are tucked in somewhere in these big animated musicals, and it is up to parents to relay these hidden messages (because we can be heroes ourselves, too) to our children.
At the start of the movie, little Moana finds herself near the open sea for the first time. She sees a pretty shell and is immediately attracted to it. She is prompted by her desire for it and proceeds to pick it up, but she stops. Then she spots a baby sea turtle (pawikan in Filipino) who is hiding and scared to make its way towards the water because of big birds flying overhead. Moana takes a moment to think: which is more important, picking up the pretty seashell or helping a small creature in need? This is all of us today.
Lovely things wash up around us every minute—in malls, shops, online—and we want to pick up everything we can, especially when a swipe of a screen and a touch of a button can accomplish it all. And our kids pick up on our habits, too. In these modern times, filled to the brim with an overwhelming variety of distractions, it is hard to keep anything—such as choices—simple and set basic examples for children on how to be the everyday heroes that their immediate environment might need.
Moana, alone and little as she was, didn’t seem to think that the decision was an easy one to make. But she reluctantly leaves the pretty seashell and decides to lend her hand to the sea turtle. At this very moment, the ocean blesses her and makes her its chosen one for a special mission that unravels for the rest of the film.
That scene may be a small event in contrast to everything else that ensues after that, but it delivers a relevant message that both children and grown-ups need today. We now live in a chaos-filled world that is busier than it has ever been; where fundamental values and virtues have become overlooked and undermined, which has led to the destruction of both people and animals and our environment. But we must learn to take a pause because we are shaping the world that our children will live in for the next hundred years, and there is nothing more important than teaching a small child that he or she has a significant role to play.
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If we take the scene to heart, Moana’s earliest actions offer three valuable lessons that give our children the opportunity to understand what it takes to go far in this world and become a heroic success for the benefit of many. Would your children be interested in saving the world like Moana and Maui? Guess what—they can.
1. Be kind. To all kinds of creatures—big and small, boys and girls, animals and people. Never miss an opportunity to perform acts of kindness. If our children are taught to take the time to look around, they should find that that the world is always in need of a helping hand and is seeking out kindness in all its forms. Our classmates, our teachers, our parents, our neighbors, our friends, dogs, cats, trees, sea turtles, anybody could use some help. And no matter how small they may be, whatever help they can give will always matter and be much appreciated.
Remember that for every time your child seizes an opportunity to perform an act of kindness, they definitely will become bigger, wiser and braver little people for it. And you can rest assured that the future will then be a better place because of it.
2. Pay attention to nature. Nature is the best teacher, and children are nature’s most natural allies. They are the perfect pair! If you allow children to be completely free, without the disabling distraction of television and gadgets, they will most likely consider a whole day of climbing trees, frolicking in the water, and chasing chickens the makings of a perfect day. Encourage that natural spirit in them, and they will grow up not only with a healthy body, but also a sharp mind that will learn lessons to accompany them for a lifetime.
Nature teaches children that all forms of life are connected. The threatened baby sea turtle in the Disney film represents not only its endangered species in the animal kingdom but our children as well. Baby sea turtles, like infants sleeping in their cribs, are all equal representations of how fragile and delicate life can be, and how we are all connected to each other.
3. Nature needs help, and the smallest deeds can go a long way. When Moana eventually sings about how far she’ll go, she’s not only talking about taking the boat out to sea. She talks about responding to the call of nature and making a difference.
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Meanwhile, little Moana’s decision to help that baby sea turtle reach the ocean at the beginning of its long journey matters more than many would realize. Pawikans hatch from eggs laid and buried in sand on a beach. Out of thousands of eggs laid by a mommy sea turtle who travels halfway across the world just to mate and lay her eggs, only one sea turtle will usually make it to adulthood. It is because from the time they are born, they face multiple natural predators from land to sea, and today’s threats from human activities and pollution have created more challenges that have become nearly impossible to overcome and survive. Children would be amazed to learn that a baby sea turtle that grows into a healthy adult is considered a real ‘miracle’ in this day and age. This means that, just by helping one baby sea turtle, Moana has already made a big difference and helped the natural world in performing a miracle!
We don’t think about it much, but the little things we do could matter the world to somebody else. Our children must learn this because they still have quite a long way to go, many years to accomplish what they can accomplish, and countless opportunities to make good choices and help others along the way.
“See the line where the sky meets the sea, it calls me,” sings Moana. This silver lining is our children’s generation. Let them respond to the call that they hear and become heroes. If we help them follow a path of kindness and heroism, there is certainly no telling how far they’ll go.
Celine Beatrice Fabie, author of “The Legend of Juan Pawikan and the 7,107 Islands,” started the online community Saving Juan Pawikan (tagline: “saving every Juan, one pawikan at a time”) to spread awareness on ocean conservation and love for the Philippine islands. She believes that children and grown-ups alike can learn a lot from saving sea turtles, which are endangered and can be found in the Philippines. Her most recent children’s story “Guita” won the Romeo Forbes’ Writing Competition and will be published by CANVAS.