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'The Blind Side': Are you up to the challenge?

Posted By Drew Zahn's column On 11/22/2009 @ 11:28 pm In Diversions | Comments Disabled

Based on the book and true-life story of NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher, “The Blind Side” is about far more than just football, but about following through on the convictions of faith – about living Christianity not in some ancient, biblical time, but in the ugly world of the here and now.

Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan sets such a pretty example of caring for those who aren’t like us, of personal sacrifice for the good of others … but what if we actually lived the story instead of just telling it?

“The Blind Side” challenges audiences with just how often and how easily we cross to the other side of the street, while our neighbors lie in the gutter. It dares us to care, and warns that there is a cost to compassion. Do you have the guts – and the love – to be a redeeming force in another’s life? Would you pay the price?

Oher’s story is a story of one who was redeemed, who was given the opportunity to try and the help needed to succeed. But it is also a story of those who are left behind, and therein is the challenge of “The Blind Side.”

“The Blind Side” takes us to Memphis, Tenn., and paints a picture of two cities living in the same zip code – one a project town filled with gangs and drugs, the other a luxurious land of wealth and opportunity.

But when “Big Mike,” a teen blessed with incredible size and athleticism, a natural football standout, crosses paths with the coach of an elite Christian school, the heads-and-tails opposites of Memphis collide.

Mike is the son of a junkie, a lonely, uneducated, often homeless teen with a grade point average of less than 1.0 and aptitude scores of even less. Like many of Memphis’ street orphans, Mike is given little chance of excelling at the coach’s pristine school, but the coach pushes for Mike’s admission.

“Look at the wall,” the coach says to the admissions board, pointing to the school’s moniker as a Christian institution. “We either take that seriously, or we paint over it.”

But even once admitted, the big, black, street teen in a school of upper-class white kids struggles to survive, still walks the streets, sleeps in a laundromat, swipes popcorn leftovers to eat and fails his classes. He has the skills to survive – barely – but not to thrive.

One teacher is ready to give up: “Let somebody else be Christian about this.”

But as Mike walks alone down a cold street without enough to eat or enough to wear, the Tuohy family takes notice, and the Good Samaritan metaphor comes to life.

And as you drive by in your luxury SUV, do you dare to care? And if so, how much? Do you offer him a fivespot? A warm meal? A coat for the night?

Or how about a home and a family?

The Tuohys take Mike in, crossing their social circles and swinging way outside the comfort zone to invest in the life of a young man whom no one had paid a nickel to care for before.

The reason “The Blind Side” was even made, of course, is that Mike flourished under the care of his new family. It’s a redemptive, uplifting tale. It’s a football rags-to-riches story. It’s touching and funny, positive and affirming of faith, God, and the people who are committed to both. Today, Michael Oher is a first-round NFL draft pick and a budding star.

But before too quickly wrapping up the story, “The Blind Side” gives us a painful reminder: The Tuohys only reached out to help one boy. Mike’s childhood pal, an athlete as well, didn’t have a Good Samaritan sponsor. His story doesn’t end the same way.

If Michael Oher’s story is a true story, than so are the stories of other teens, other left tackles, other singers, other artists, other mechanics or engineers or preachers … who won’t be drafted or chosen or helped. Some won’t even have the chance to be born.

It may be time for many of us who fancy ourselves Good Samaritans to reevaluate: Are there neighbors I have conveniently forgotten? And would I be willing to commit to compassion?

Content advisory:

  • “The Blind Side” contains a healthy handful of profanities and a few racial epithets, but the expressions fit naturally into the characters’ dialogue and aren’t so gratuitous or abundant as to be distracting.
  • The film’s sexual references consist of some suggestive flirting and kissing by a married couple, the occasionally tight or revealing (though classy and upscale) clothing worn by actress Sandra Bullock, some leering comments, one blunt threat of castration and a lewd reference to a strip club. There are no sex scenes or nudity.
  • Some drug references are made in the scenes in the projects.
  • There is some football violence, though nothing gruesome. There is also an intense fight scene that involves brute force and the threat of guns. A car accident is depicted startlingly, with some bloodshed.

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