A friend told me the other day that he enjoyed Thanksgiving even more than Christmas. “There’s less emphasis on shopping and gifts and more on just being thankful for what you have,” he said.
Thankfulness is just one of the many warm feelings you have after seeing the movie “The Blind Side,” starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw and newcomer Quinton Aaron.
Had it been a fictional story it would have been dismissed as over-the-top unbelievable. But the movie, based on the bestselling book by Michael Lewis, recounts the real life story of Michael Oher (pronounced “oar”) who a decade ago was a homeless student carrying a 0.9 grade point average. His mother was a crack addict. His father, who Oher barely knew, was murdered when he was in high school. Today Michael Oher is a Baltimore Raven and a multi-millionaire.
But it wasn’t raw talent that got him into the NFL. It was a former college cheerleader named Leigh Anne Tuohy. She and her husband, Sean, saw young Michael – all 6 foot five, 340 pounds of him – walking in the snow in shorts and a T-shirt when they were driving home from their kids’ school.
“Where are you going”? They ask him.
It turns out he’s headed to the school gym because it’s heated and he had nowhere else to go over the Thanksgiving holiday. Some critics have rolled their eyes at that emotionally moving scene – the comfortable white family who just happen to see a huge but harmless black teen walking in the cold on Thanksgiving eve and invite him back to their home – but that is actually what happened. Michael was attending their kids’ school on a charity scholarship and had no family to go home to. The Tuohy’s let him stay with them, bought him clothes, hired a tutor and eventually adopted him.
Michael got his high school diploma, a college scholarship, (where he made the dean’s list) at the Tuohy’s alma mater, Mississippi, and an NFL career that began just this year. But what saved Michael wasn’t just money and talent, it was love.
The Tuohy’s are a Christian family, and their impulse to step forward and help Michael when others would not came from their faith. “The Blind Side” refreshingly sweeps aside the Hollywood stereotypes about southern Christian conservatives to drive this point home. In fact, Sandra Bullock told interviewers she was originally reluctant to play Leigh Anne Tuohy because she didn’t know that there were people like that in real life.
But there are, and they are all around us.
Take D’Anna Evans from Bellevue. This remarkable wife and mother of two seemed to touch everything around her and make it better … from her kids’ school where she headed the PTA, to the Triangle swim club where she inspired so many youngsters, to her local church and even the garden in her back yard. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she naturally started a cancer support group. Her faith in God ignited her instinct to help others. But while her spirit was unconquerable, her physical health was not. Cancer claimed her last week at 43.
I mention this because discussions in the media about how to help kids stay in school, or avoid crime or drugs often revolve around government programs and money. But what often works best is people stepping forward because they feel obligated to help someone who needs it.
Leigh Anne Tuohy and D’Anna Evans are reminders of what a difference any of us can make when we take that step. And their example is something to be thankful for.
John Carlson hosts a daily radio program, “The Commentators,” with KOMO 4’s Ken Schram each weekday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.