Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Blind Side and the kindness of strangers

Last weekend I watched the movie "The Blind Side", starring Sandra Bullock. I had heard a lot of good times about this movie, but I was skeptical about how good it would actually be. I mean, let's be honest, after awhile all of the inspirational sports films have the same plot with a slightly different slant. There is an underdog, no one thinks he is going to make the team, he does, proves everyone wrong, and wins the championship. Viola! There you have it.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised at that a) The Blind Side doesn't follow this plot as closely as other sports movies, and b) the way that this movie truly touched and inspired me.

I won't give a detailed summary of the movie here, you can go to wikipedia or look at the back cover of the movie for that. But the basic plot is that the affluent Tuohy family takes in a homeless African American teenager, Michael, giving him food, shelter, and most of all, the love of a family. Mrs. Tuohy showers Michael with kindness, compassion, and most importantly, a confidence in him that helps him blossom as a student, and as a football player. The story chronicles the Tuohy's relationship with Michael, the beautiful way they change his life forever, and more importantly, the way he changes theirs. The movie is based on a true story of one of the Baltimore Ravens (Michael Oher); in the movie Michael becomes a star football player and eventually lands a scholarship to Ole Miss.

This movie brought me to tears several times. I think with any good film, one is able to pick up something different out of the story and identify it with their own life. I was particularly able to identify with this movie because it was set in Memphis, Tennessee, my new home state. And although I don't rub noses with them everyday, I have definitely become more familiar with the affluent areas and people of this area -- the Southern mansions, manners, and lifestyle, such as the Tuohy's are part of.

That's a minor aspect though. The thing about this movie that truly touched me was how it illustrated the transformative power of the kindness of strangers. The Tuohy family barely knew Michael at all when they invited him into their home. Yet Mrs. Tuohy stepped out in risk and vulnerability to offer him the love and compassion which he so desperately needed. She had no previous connection with him, other than she had seen him around school. She was not obligated in anyway to interact with him. Yet she saw his need. She reached out to him. And she loved him, as her own son.

Mrs. Tui's hospitality touched me deeply because of my current move to Nashville, a town where I knew no one, and still know just a handful of people. As a "stranger in a strange land" the kindness of strangers has meant the world to me. Even simply someone smiling and asking with genuine concern, "How are you?" has turned moments of feeling alone and overwhealmed to bringing a rush of comfort over me.

There have been a few people in particular who have truly looked after me; making sure I feel welcome, opening their homes and hearts to me in friendship. One older woman at Mass always makes a point to acknowledge me, wave, touch my shoulder on her way to Communion, or in one amusing moment, give me the thumbs up at the sign of peace. For the new girl in town, these little gestures of concern have made me feel not-so-alone, just when I need it most.

Yet there is nothing that dictates these people go out of their way to acknowldege or affirm me. We have no prior connection. They could just continue on their merry way, and we would simply remain distant aquaintences. Yet these people have stepped out in charity and selflessness to show me hospitality and compassion.

Like Mrs. Tuohy, the thing that touches me most is their loving perception.

Mrs. Tuohy noticed.

She noticed, and then she immediately reached out.

These new friends here in Nashville have noticed. They have taken the time to percieve my loneliness, my discombobulation, my longing for friendship and have reached out to me in love. For this I am eternally grateful.

"When I was a stranger, you welcomed me." (Matthew 25:45)

1 comment:

  1. When we were first married, we volunteered to help out with coffee and donuts session for after mass. We felt that this was an essential aspect of our church-this social interaction (Upon reflection, it is something of a eucharist: a thanksgiving, sharing, and fellowship).

    When we moved to Knoxville, one of the most significant criteria we had for evaluating churches to attend (and I still use it) was if they had a coffee/donut social after mass and how it was handled.

    The closest RC church to us DID have a coffee/donut social after mass but one had to pay. We thought that was a bit tacky and not very welcoming. In addition, we noticed that no one paid any attention to us. Instead, they consumed their food and left. One time, someone did talk to us but they were also new to the church and had questions. We had a fine chat with them.