"We Bought A Zoo" Models Reality: Being Okay With Not Being Okay

For years, "We Bought A Zoo" has been my all time favorite movie. It has always been my go-to, no matter what mood I'm in. For the most part, I've never really thought deeply about why it's my favorite - it just is.

[As a side note: Although it does have some language, I do highly recommend it.]

But with the recent pandemic, and all the bubbling emotions associated with that, I've had time on my hands... time to think about really random things, like the ideas for this post.

One of the primary reasons why I've always loved this movie is that is relatable. The movie opens up with a widowed father, Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon), trying to get his two children out the door for school.

While I am not widowed, I have lost people very dear to me. The pain that Benjamin experiences in the aftermath of losing his wife and trying to help the kids transition to life on a zoo is pain I relate to.

Grief is so complicated and messy. We often try to shove it aside and not deal with it because it is painful, and it can set us back (even if only temporarily).

"We Bought A Zoo" encourages families to be open and honest about how they feel while grieving and going through transition. The truth is that we are stronger together than apart.

In the movie, Benjamin's relationship with his son is strained and damaged. In several heated arguments (Parents: I advise you watch these scenes beforehand as it does have some vulgar language), the son finally explains the depth of his frustrations and Benjamin opens up and is able to forgive his son and ask for forgiveness for his own actions.

The scenes that follow show how their relationship is redeemed.

A former teacher of mine once said that "There is redemption in every story". I believe this to be true because the evidence in my own life and in the lives of those I know suggests that much.

Life is not easy. It can be a downright pain sometimes. But the redemption makes it worth the struggle and grief.

The central theme of the movie is learning to be okay with not being okay. It's about learning to accept the fact that we aren't perfect and that we struggle (so much). It's about understanding that needing help is okay.

"We Bought A Zoo" is not the first produced film (or album) to mention this. We Are Messengers' song "Maybe It's Ok" expresses the same sentiments:

"If I didn't know what it hurt like to be broken

Then how would I know what it feels like to be whole

If I didn't know what it cost like to be rejected

Then I wouldn't know that Your love coming home

Maybe it's ok if I'm not ok'

Cause the One who holds the world is holding onto me

Maybe it's all right if I'm not all right'

Cause the One who holds the stars is holding my whole life"

(See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPZ9p00gOUU)

My dear readers, it is so important that you understand this. It is okay to not be okay. We're human and we struggle.

But it is also equally important to remember that we are not alone in our struggles. As the song says, "the One who holds the stars is holding my whole life".