One of my favourite moments from one of my favourite musicals…
Jean Valjean has been imprisoned for 19 years and now released on licence and lost all he had. He is desperate, hungry and with no place to go. He knocks on Bishop Bienvenue’s door, who invites him in to feed him and give him somewhere to stay.
Destitute and frightened, Jean Valjean leaves early the next morning, stealing some silver dinner servings, only to be stopped and arrested by police on patrol who return him to the Bishop. To the surprise of the police, the Bishop insists the silverware was a gift and that Jean Valjean has forgotten to take the two silver candlesticks he had also given him.
From the text:
Bishop Bienvenue says to Jean Valjean “Do not forget, do not ever forget, that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man.’
Valjean, who did not recall having made any promise, was silent. The bishop had spoken the words slowly and deliberately. He concluded with a solemn emphasis:
“Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to what is evil but to what is good. I have bought your soul to save it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”
L’évêque s’approcha de lui, et lui dit à voix basse :
— N’oubliez pas, n’oubliez jamais que vous m’avez promis d’employer cet argent à devenir honnête homme. Jean Valjean, qui n’avait aucun souvenir d’avoir rien promis, resta interdit. L’évêque avait appuyé sur ces paroles en les prononçant. Il reprit avec solennité :
— Jean Valjean, mon frère, vous n’appartenez plus au mal, mais au bien. C’est votre âme que je vous achète ; je la retire aux pensées noires et à l’esprit de perdition, et je la donne à Dieu.
This is a turning point in the life of Jean Valjean. He goes on to be a changed man, a man of charity and kindness, trying to leave behind his past. This was made possible through the kindness of Bishop Bienvenue which touched Jean Valjean’s soul.
For us, it is easy for us to judge another and take a moral high ground but that is not how we help and influence others. For more on influence, see Aesop’s fable – ‘The Wind & the Sun’… We are surrounded by an online culture that can be quick to condemn (cancel) and judge quickly. Last month President Nelson said “My dear brothers and sisters, this should not be. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be examples of how to interact with others—especially when we have differences of opinion. One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.”
Moroni in 7:45 says “And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
Bishop Bienvenue also believed what President Nelson’s attested to last month
“Brothers and sisters, we can literally change the world—one person and one interaction at a time. How? By modelling how to manage honest differences of opinion with mutual respect and dignified dialogue.”
A little kindness goes a long way, it did for Jean Valjean.