This past week I watched The Blind Side. Despite my resistance to watching it and my usual dislike for Sandra Bullock movies, this was a good story and a movie worth watching.
The story of Michael Ohr’s life is told from being removed from his drug-addicted mother, placed in foster homes, couch surfing, road wandering, being taken in by the wealthy Tuohy’s, to getting a full scholarship to play football at Ol’ Miss, and being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.
A tear-jerking story, filled with status-quo shattering moments, it proved to me that we don’t even know what we are looking for to exemplify as superior personality traits.
After a steady stream of heroic feats by Michael Ohr, Leigh Anne Tuohy, Collins Tuohy, and Mrs. Boswell, the film closes by focusing on the need for more athletic scholarships for poor black boys. Now I am not against athletic scholarships for poor black boys, but it is not what made Michael Ohr’s life so remarkable. What the film did an excellent job portraying even if they didn’t recognize it was beautiful humanity.
For Michael Ohr is was his ability to resist the drugs and violence that was at his beckoning call his entire life. His ability to remain a sweet, caring, and sensitive young man, despite the enormous pressure to become a callous thug.
For Leigh Anne Tuohy, it was her courage to take a chance on this closed-off young man, her willingness to be hurt, and more so her willingness to believe in and commit to this young man. It was her bravery to tell her socialite friends they were bigots and choose truth over the comfort of social conformity.
For Collins it was taking the chance to become the target of ridicule and being outcast by her high school friends for publicly displaying her acceptance and feelings of kinship for Michael (much like her mother’s dilemma).
It was all of these personal choices to be vulnerable, to be compassionate instead of fearful, and to act in line with truth instead of blending in with the herd that made this a compelling story with a happy ending.
Consider the story of two Michaels, Ohr and Vick. Both come from the projects, both are talented football players. Michael Vick chose to utilize his luck in life to get involved in a major dog-fighting operation, which displays inferior moral aptitude. It shows an orientation towards violence, power, and greed. Michael Ohr’s story to my knowledge is absent of such displays, and does feature traits of hope, generosity, and sensitivity.
My point here is that attitude and personality are what makes this a remarkable story. In classical Chinese philosophy it is said that there are two kinds of luck-the first is what happens to you, the second is what you do with it. This second kind of luck is referring to personality. You win the lottery, congratulations, what do you do with it? Buy a mansion, expensive jewelry and cars? Well, that’s your prerogative, but I will congratulate the person who finds a more virtuous application of her good fortune.
Don’t take this point of “two kinds of luck” to think that I support the concept that poor people today just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, because that’s bull. I am an advocate and pursuer of social and economic justice. (Consider the juxtaposition of Mr. Tuohy’s wealth coming from owning over 80 fast-food chain restaurants, which pay people minimum wage and sell people disease-causing foods, often concentrated in poor neighborhoods) Nonetheless, character is always important.
This movie, The Blind Side, also unknowingly depicted the flaws of our education system quite well. Michael Ohr had been passed along the public education system until he was accepted into a Christian Academy, most presumably for his athletic promise. Here, Mrs. Boswell became Ohr’s academic champion, looking for ways to engage this young man, but still within the confines of a very traditional curriculum. The things he demonstrated that he understood were just floating facts, disconnected from any relevant experience. Going to college was portrayed primarily as a means to play football, not a place to enrich one’s self in any deep way. It was going to be a party, full of girls and games.
Even when asked if he wants to play football, Ohr replies, “well, I think I am pretty good at it.” Hopefully since then he has discovered what his passions truly are, perhaps football is one of them and perhaps not.