Feed The Birds or Save The Tuppence? The Mary Poppins question, finally answered.
As a child I was utterly captivated by the enchantment Mary Poppins offered. The magic of unlimited possibilities is a concept that has held significant appeal and belief for me ever since i discovered it! Though I couldn’t begin to comprehend it then, some of my favorite scenes centered around the bird lady. Although her part was small, her character played a crucial role within the film.
My inner-omg-i-must-have-knowledge-geek LOVES exploring interpretations and potential hidden themes within pop culture. It is a practice of mine that always leads to, at the least, interesting discussions with folks. Keeping that in mind, a few years ago, I stumbled across an analysis of Mary Poppins. The author of the paper, Vincent F. Rocchio, stated his interpretation of the feed the birds song found in the movie that i found interesting:
The actions that the lyrics authorise—that the saints smile upon—are more than just kindness and simple generosity: they are an alternative social action. And while ‘feeding the birds’ specifically seems fairly insignificant, it nonetheless operates within a specific social vision—the Biblical mandate of ‘stewardship’. As opposed to capitalism, which sees nature as a commodity —as something endlessly subject to commodification and the human demands for profit— stewardship imposes a responsibility on humanity to care for nature. The Bird Woman carves out a space for stewardship even within a modern urban setting, and the lyrics of the song strongly endorse it.
It was a perspective that I had never really thought about prior.
Honestly, for most of my life I was content just appreciating the enjoyment I got from the film and not necessarily caring about the whole “why” part. Then, I remembered a discussion I once had with my dad - much like Michael Banks has in the film with his father- does he save his tuppence or does he use it to feed the birds?
In this instance I was a proponent of feeding the birds, my father advocated saving the tuppence. (and, as it turns out - he was wrong… make it through to the end of the post to see why)
See, as far back as I can remember, when faced with a decision where i struggle to make any sort of a firm choice - i let kindness, gratitude or generosity guide me. This isn’t because I am some remarkably amazing human being who is all selfless and stuff- in fact, quite the opposite - it is what gives me the most pleasure, leads to the fewest regrets and often grants me the most gratifying experiences.
Armed with my love of Mary Poppins buried deep within my mind (fairly certain there were a few cobwebs there) while walking through New York City’s Central Park one autumn afternoon… I caught myself humming “feed the birds… tuppence…” and quickly realized why.
I was so captivated, I almost forgot to capture it.
I stopped, and reveled in the man’s pure delight and joy, watching from afar.
That is the powerful thing about the seemingly simple things that bring us true joy, true pleasure, those moments in which we subconciously recognize that we just have this one, magnificent life to live… they are abso-friggin-lutely contagious.
Astounded by the moment, by his shy smile, by the bond and trust he appeared to share with the pigeons…
I mean … LOOK! Look, at how the one watches him and almost mimic his head in unison…
Then, despite my probably-not-as-amazingly-stealth-mode-as-i-thought… the birds seemed to notice me, except for the one clearly not paying attention….
Umm, now this is awkward….
I had, what we shall call - sheer brilliance - words unparalleled to any other, to close this post.
So totally pulitzer prize worthy. (you can’t prove it wasn’t!)
Then, my blog ate it and I couldn’t undo it. I repeat: It ATE my words. sniff, sniff
a moment of silence please….
I’ll close with this thought - take time to really look at what is around you. You may find, even on your most difficult of days where joy doesn’t seem to be present - that you stumble across someone’s pleasure and find that it too, brings you some.
P.S. Dad - (i miss you!) wherever you are in the heavens - i just want you to know I WAS RIGHT. Saving that tuppence - soooo not worth it. Says this guy. He used like numbers and math and stuff, it MUST be correct!
P.P.S. All the images below, click to enlarge.