They will not have forgotten how to treat strangers.
Paddington is a special film. Yes it is a quintessentially British film, yes it is for kids (and adults) and yes it reeks of nostalgia for those of us who remember the stop animation TV tales or the stories themselves. Paddington is much more than that.
Paddington has heart, Paddington has soul and whether it is conscious of it or not Paddington has gospel intent.
The key to Paddington is the quote from Paddington’s Aunt Lucy ‘they will not have forgotten how to treat strangers’. Paddington comes to London with an expectation of how he will be treated. Initially he struggles to come to terms with how he is ignored and rejected on his arrival and downcast takes up residence in Paddington station deflated and with little more than an emergency sandwich to sustain him.
It is at this point that he is spotted by the Browns or more specifically Mrs Brown who takes him in, gives him a bed, feeds and clothes him and offers him help on his journey.
I had a deep reaction to this part of the film as I watched I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Matthew 25 where Jesus gives us clear instruction on how the stranger is to be treated.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me;
My second (and stronger) reaction was the realisation of how poor I am at carrying this out. My reaction to the stranger is more akin to that of Mr Brown who advises his children not to make eye contact and walk on. How many strangers do I ignore? How many of those in need do I walk past? Paddington is a highly enjoyable cinema experience but more than that it had the power to convict me of my failings.
At a time where sections of the media and politicians pour untold negativity on immigration and those who come to our shores in need of a new start longing for a better chance for their families it may be that Aunt Lucy is wrong in her understanding of London. We may have forgotten how to treat the stranger not only in London but wherever you read this.
Thankfully Paddington is a great reminder.