Taking Baby Steps: The Blind Side

SEPT / OCT 2012: BY CAMILLE GAFFNEY

blindside

We’ve all had one of those moments. You know, when you see a homeless guy walking the sidewalk with a bag of cans. He stops at the public trash bins to see if someone left something behind. His jeans are grubby and it looks like he has not shaved in a week or two.

Several thoughts run through your head as you sit at the stoplight. “I wonder what his story is.” Perhaps you think of passing him the change in your glove compartment. Maybe you’re a bit more cynical, and debate why the government has not solved the problem of homelessness by now. Then the light turns green, you remember you are late to your appointment, and off you go without giving him a second thought.

Every day we’re confronted by situations to make us uncomfortable. We either choose to do something to change them, or we walk away and forget we saw it. The Blind Side is a film about a family that decided not to sit on the sidelines, but to put their sympathy into action.

One November day while driving with her husband, Leigh Anne Tuohy, a successful wife, mother, and interior designer, observes a teenage black boy get off a bus stop in Memphis, Tennessee. Her husband informs her the young man is “Big Mike,” and he recently began attending their children’s private Christian school. He’s wearing cutoff jeans and a T-shirt in the snow, trying to make it to the high school gym to spend the evening. It is at this moment, when our pity usually trails off into forgetfulness, that she decides to do something to help him.

She invites the young man to spend the evening on their couch. Many of you are familiar with how the story progresses. The evening stay turns into Thanksgiving dinner. One day follows another, and soon Leigh Ann and her family are attached to “Big Mike,” who, we discover, prefers to be called Michael, and has no family to love him. He becomes a part of their family and they help him advance from a potential high school dropout to a college football scholarship recipient.

What makes the film captivating is observing this newly “blended” family interact and grow to love one another. Leigh Ann (Sandra Bullock) and Michael (Quinton Aaron) could not be more different in temperament.

Leigh Ann is a no-nonsense woman, outspoken, and known for getting her way. Her first conversation with Michael includes her threatening him “don’t you dare lie to me” when she asks if he has a place to stay. However, her façade of toughness is gently removed to reveal her tenderheartedness for Michael. Bullock’s strongest moments are those when she is alone in a car or bedroom, privately attempting to control her grief for Michael’s previous circumstances.

On the other hand, Michael is a gentle 300 pound plus giant. He speaks rarely and is  not easily provoked. When he begins football practice, he is scolded for not being aggressive enough. When racial jeers at a football game inflame Leigh Ann, Michael is seemingly oblivious. We only see his ferocity when he acts to protect his family from those who threaten them. He appears to be unblemished by his previous life experiences, which include a crack-addicted mother, 13 half siblings, and never meeting his father. When asked how he survived his childhood, his simple yet incredible response is that when evil presented itself, he simply “closed his eyes.”

As the film concludes with Michael leaving for college, we see the petite Leigh Ann dwarfed in a hug by Michael. And we wonder, what kind of love could make these uniquely opposite characters completely complement each other as mother and son?

The Blind Side teaches us that we do not have to change the world in giant, bounding steps. The Tuohy family did not decide to adopt Michael in one day. Sean decided to buy him a school lunch plan. Then Leigh Ann decided to buy him clothing. Next, he spent a cold evening on their living room couch. A Thanksgiving meal turned into another day’s stay, and then one day simply followed another.

Little steps are still progress forward and can take you to amazing places. Christ tells us that if we give a cup of cold water to someone, we shall not lose our reward. Do the little things for individuals, and God will help it grow into something more. One of The Blind Side’s most moving scenes is when Leigh Ann is told, “You are changing that boy’s life.”

“No,” she pauses, “he is changing mine.” So take that first step, however small. It might change your life. ■

septoct2012

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