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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Some Inspiration

I usually "treat" my attacks of insomnia by working - sometimes all night long, either learning something new in technology or doing one of the many things that there are to be done with razors.  But I decided to take a break tonight and just watch a movie - "The Blind Side."  As you probably know, even if you haven't seen the film, it won several Academy Awards - most notably the one by Sandra Bullock for Best Actress.  It was on that basis that I decided to take 128 minutes of my time and spend it on this movie.  Those minutes were not wasted - it was one of the finest films I have ever seen.

I am not going to ruin the film for you by telling you all about it.  It is something you should definitely see.  But there were some beautiful lessons to be learned from it that have nothing at all to do with razors and everything to do with how to live a fulfilling life.

This is a word that is used so frequently that it has almost lost its simple eloquence.  Every charity wants you to give your money, employers want you to give your time, your children want you to give them a ride.  Your wife wants you to give her a hand with the housework.  These are all very important ways of giving and all have their place in our lives.  In the movie, the sanctity of giving is celebrated by the act of a family giving a place in their lives and home, not to a cute three year old child, but to a hulking, silent, seemingly slow teenager who, being African American, stood out like a bug on a plate in a wealthy lily-white suburb of the deep South.  This extremely wealthy family, fronted by the mother (played by Sandra Bullock in the movie), had every reason in the world to ignore this boy when they first encountered him on the street on a cold night.  Instead, they took him home and gave him a place to sleep - just for one night.  That one night became two, then three, then thirty.  Almost imperceptibly, Michael Oher truly became a thoroughly loved, permanent member of this family.  In the process, Michael achieved the potential that, sadly, many children are denied through lack of support, resources and simply the lack of people who will believe in them and never give up.

"Taking" is not anywhere near as popular a word as "giving."  On its face, it reeks of selfishness, greed and ingratitude. I would argue that taking is just as important as giving - if not more so. Judaism holds that giving is an obligation of every individual.  This is certainly not exclusive to the Jewish faith, but it is the one I know best.  At its highest level, the recipient is doing a great favor for the giver.  Without someone to take, there is nothing to give.  Without the ability to give, one's life is reduced to something very small and insignificant.  We would be all made misers without people who will do us the kindness of taking.  This was no more evident than in The Blind Side.  Michael Oher was not comfortable with taking.  In fact, the simple gift of a couch, pillow and blanket for a single night almost had to be forced on him by a wealthy white woman about half his size.  Reluctantly he accepted and continued to accept their assistance, very reluctantly, for quite a long time.  You see, Michael was not the stereotypical "taker" that we often demonize in our society - the unwashed masses reaching into our pockets with their greedy hands to take what is "owed" them.  While these people certainly exist, they are, I believe, a small number of those who are in need.  Like the child in the story, they look at "charity" as something shameful - wanting not a handout, but simply a hand up.

By taking from this family of exceptionally good people, Michael Oher enriched their lives just as much as his was enriched by the love, patience and resources they gave him.

The importance of this film and why you should see it, is that it so effectively addresses both of these sides of the human equation.  You will find out what happened to Michael by watching the movie, or perhaps you already know.  But I submit that his ultimate level of success, as most of us define it, is of little importance. What is most significant, is that by both giving and taking, many lives were forever illuminated, including those who are touched by this important film.

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