The Saturday afternoon showing of The Blind Side was jammed, and applause broke out at the end of the movie. Michael Lewis’ terrific book has made a very successful move to the big screen, and though New Moon’s box office total overshadows the true story of the Touhys and Mike Oher, in the long run the real story will be the one that will change lives.
I won’t recount any of the details of the book or the film, but the applause occurs because this is a genuine story of risk, sacrifice and triumph. One family reached out and changed one life. The Christian motivation behind the Touhys embrace of Michael is understated in the film, but what is moving is the obvious goodness of the family and the vivid depiction of what can occur when the virtuous instincts most of us feel at least occasionally are acted upon. More than a few people have to leave the theater wondering if they could risk that much or achieve that much if they stretched.
Some undoubtedly will try, and the stories of those actions will be told in due course. Many people long ago acted on their faith to change the lives of others.
Three weeks ago I had dinner with Mark McKinney, executive pastor of Discovery Church in Simi Valley, California. I had to drag the story out of him, but Mark and his wife have adopted two children –one from Vietnam and one from Taiwan– and hope to inspire others to at least think about reaching out to one of the world’s more than 150 million orphans.
Two weeks ago I attended a lunch for Olive Crest, a great organization in southern California that helps place abused and abandoned children in stable foster care environments which often leads to adoption. The program was full of stories of ordinary people who made extraordinary impacts on the lives of kids.
Last night we attended a fundraiser for Young Life in Armenia and heard an amazing story. A hairdresser for one of the key California supporters of YL in Armenia heard how it takes only $50 to send an Armenian high school kid to a life-changing camp, and since then has donated the fee for every haircut received by that key supporter. She’s had a tough couple of years in her business but has faithfully given back every single fee for every single appointment with that supporter. Last night she was presented with a picture of the 21 kids she has sent to YL camp in 2008 and 2009.
There are hundreds of thousands of Touhy families out there, and the applause for the film makes me think there are millions more such families. They are not often seen and movies about them are rare, but they are there.
If you would like to join their ranks but don’t know how to begin, please consider a sponsorship of a child through Children International. I visited the CI offices and programs in the Dominican Republic in 2008 with my friend Bud —the write up and photos of that trip are here— and came away deeply impressed with the consequences of sponsoring a child. Just $22 a month radically changes a child’s life by providing food, clothing, health care, education and in later years, vocational training or a path to higher education. Even in the worst recession in many decades, Americans remain generous and blessed, and if you walked out of The Blind Side thinking about what could you do to be like the people who liked Mike, consider sponsoring a child with CI.
Or do something else, from adoption, to support of YL in Armenia, or involvement with anything your church or community group sponsors. The spontaneous applause you hear will be for yourself from the person whose life you changed.
This month I am going to feature a string of segment interviews with various not-for-profits, many of which are struggling in these days. There are unlimited opportunities to achieve the sort of significance that anchors The Blind Side.
This week of Thanksgiving is a great time to seek one out.