Lessons from Oz: Dreams, Friendship and the Power of “Home”

This week’s writing prompt in one of my Facebook groups featured this photo from “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy wakes up from her journey to Oz; realizing it was all a dream. The writing challenge was to imagine yourself in this situation — you wake up tomorrow and find the entire COVID-19 pandemic to be nothing more than a bad dream. What would that waking scene look like?

Writing that prompt set my mind turning in many ways with respect to “The Wizard of Oz” — its themes, as well as the meaning the movie had for me as a child and today as an adult. It’s one of the first movies I remember watching. I had a framed vintage movie poster that hung in my childhood bedroom. That poster now hangs in my new house.

Reflecting on the prompt, if there was no pandemic, would I be making plans with friends? Training harder for running events that were no longer cancelled? Thinking differently about personal situations and events that happened, and those yet to happen in the future? What if the actual events that took place in these last six weeks never occurred at all because there was no pandemic and no subsequent quarantine? Would Dorothy be looking at life in a different way had she not dreamed her journey to Oz?

I was reflecting on why this simple movie is so powerful. Many say it has to do with the themes, the most obvious being the one uttered by Dorothy at the end of the story: “there’s no place like home.” While I believe that’s true, I think the theme of “home” is deeper than the four walls in which you reside. To me, “The Wizard of Oz” is a story about friendship, believing in yourself, and what “home” truly means to you.

With respect to the idea of friendship and believing in yourself, we see Dorothy make friends along the Yellow Brick Road. Like Dorothy, each of her friends believe they’re lacking something important of which they can’t find themselves. The Scarecrow thinks he’s not smart; so he needs a brain. The Tin Man is hollow; so he needs a heart. The Lion is scared of his own shadow; so he needs courage. Dorothy wants to go to Kansas and those friends help her get to her destination, to Oz, which is the conduit to home.

But what we come to find out from Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, is that Dorothy had the power to get what she needed all along. It was always in her; she just needed to believe in herself. We all know the Scarecrow was smart, the Tin Man was capable of love, and the Lion was courageous in his own rite. And that’s why the Wizard didn’t give them those individuals an actual brain, heart or courage. He gave them symbols so they would believe in themselves. To get what we want most, we  have to believe in ourselves; and the courage, love and smarts we within us.

Dorothy couldn’t have made it to Oz, or home, without her friends. And in the end, she wakes up to realize it was just a dream. But she’s surrounded by Auntie Em and Uncle Henry, Professor Marvel, and her three friends who, in Oz, were Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Lion. She is home. …

For me, home is a feeling; it’s being with the people who know me best and make me feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in life. That’s a big reason I feel like being here — in Terre Haute, Indiana — I am finally home. So when Dorothy says, “There’s no place like home,” maybe the home she’s referring to is the comfort of being surrounded by her family and friends. Perhaps “The Wizard of Oz” is actually reinforcing that idea that home is not a physical place at all.

Going back to the idea of waking up from a dream and the idea of what may have happened without the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s really no way I can speculate how my life would be different, better or worse. I guess maybe that’s the point of life … We don’t know what will happen either way the tornado blows. But in any case, I hope I’m as lucky as Dorothy — to feel like I’m “home,” surrounded by those I love and care for the most.

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