Blind Sided

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Cover of "The Blind Side"

Cover of The Blind Side

They say Hollywood keeps making the same movies over and over again. See if this plot sounds familiar: a (world-weary) (well-intentioned) (jaded) (down-to-earth) main character encounters someone with multiple strikes against him: low intelligence, destitution, familial abandonment, mental illness, etc. Do-gooder sets out to help poor unfortunate soul and instead finds him/herself changed forever.

My formula isn’t perfect, but you get the gist. The Cellist. Forrest Gump. A Beautiful Mind. Rain Man. And now, The Blind Side.

We heard great things about this movie, and it delivered. It’s funny, heart-warming, inspiring. Midway through the book comes a scene where Sandra Bullock’s character is sitting with her rich friends, who are condescending to her about taking a black teenager from the wrong side of town into her home. She calls them down, and they try to re-ingratiate themselves by saying, “You’re changing that boy’s life.” And she says, “No, he’s changing mine.”

This is a stock moment, more self-aware than most, but those words struck me hard. Because I am one of those people whose life has been changed by “the least of these.” My story isn’t dramatic. I’m just a mom who never thought she’d have a child with special needs. Nobody’s going to make a movie out of me. (Thank God.) But I would imagine that all of us who have found ourselves confronted by the reality of Down’s, autism, cerebral palsy, etc., would identify with that statement: No, he’s changing mine. For the better. Despite what you think about my child’s intrinsic worth.

I guess what gets me about this is that even Hollywood, which is notorious for its unrealistic expectations for appearance, recognizes that value is found in the people who make us most uncomfortable. We eat it up, shower Rain Man Posterawards on the movies (Rain Man won 4 Oscars, for instance). But then we go home and act like we’ve never even noticed the underlying message: that there is value in moving outside your comfort zone and getting to know the “least of these.” We go on condescending and sticking kids into categories and letting our eyes glaze over adults in wheelchairs at church so we don’t have to say hello to them, because it would make us uncomfortable if we couldn’t understand what they were saying. And doctors go to their clinics and teachers to their med school classrooms, and they indoctrinate a whole new generation that Down syndrome is this Scary Bad thing, without any possible up side, and solidify the aborting of an entire class of people, out of sheer ignorance of the simple truth that movies like The Blind Side and Rain Man have attempted to portray:

Every human life has worth. Every human life sends ripples out to the lives around it, even—perhaps especially—when they are perceived as weaker or “less than.” And when we belittle the least of these, we belittle ourselves.

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 117

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Here’s something to listen to. This is a CNS report about Mass in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Take a minute to listen. Even taking into account cultural differences, these people put us to shame. I wonder if we weren’t so rich, if we didn’t have so much wealth that we can afford to squabble and bicker over things God doesn’t care about, would we celebrate more truly?

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You may remember that Julianna has been in underwear for two weeks. I got this note, in a plastic bag full of diapers, from Julianna’s teacher this week: “We are sending Julianna’s diapers home because she keeps trying to put them on. We had her say ‘goodbye’ to them. We will keep a couple here just in case.” 🙂

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You know how kids of a certain age always want what someone else has? That’s been my all-but-twins kiddos for the last couple of months. We’ll give them the same cereal in identical bowls, and they’ll sit across the table from each other and howl for what the other one has. More than once I’ve switched their bowls, just to pacify them. Jeez Louise.

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But guess what? Now they’ve taken it a step farther. Case in point: two days ago, they both decided they were done with breakfast about the same time–both without finishing their cereal. As soon as Julianna got free of Mommy, she made a beeline for Nicholas’s chair and climbed up, made herself at home, and helped herself to his leftovers. Nicholas stood at her leg, yanking on her clothes and screeching like a banshee in protest. I took the cereal bowl away from her and said, “Nicolas, do you want this?” He shook his head decisively. No, he didn’t want his cereal, he just didn’t want HER to have it, OR his chair!

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The Blind Side PosterWe started watching The Blind Side last night. It’s a great movie, by the way. If you don’t know it, it’s about a white woman who takes in a black high school student with nowhere to go, a kid that everybody’s given up on, written off as stupid because his IQ is low and he doesn’t talk much. That’s a horrible oversimplification, but it’ll do to introduce my point. At one point in the movie, one of the main character’s friends says, “You’re changing that boy’s life.” The main character says, “No. He’s changing mine.”

It got me to thinking about this somewhat predictable plotline. These inspiring movies, which take the underdogs, the ones that everybody overlooks and doesn’t see their value, and shows how they change the rest of us for the better. It’s a familiar enough plot that we (American culture) give Sandra Bullock an Academy Award and nominate the movie for Best Picture. And yet we (American culture) fail to see that this stock plot is a true reflection of life with all those whom we (American culture) view to be without value. Of course I’m speaking again of my chromosomally-gifted daughter. But it occurs to me that this is worthy of its own blog post. So I’ll hold off for Monday on this topic.

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Alex is fast approaching his sixth birthday, and he’s starting to show interest in lots of things. I am absolutely determined that I will not get him over-involved. Christian & I are working on coming up with a solution to the activities conundrum. Our family already has activities three afternoons and three nights a week (not a complete overlap, either), even before the kids start up sports etc., and those activities constitute family income: i.e., teaching music lessons. So we’re going to have to come up with a solution. Those of you whose kids are older, how do you deal with this? I’ll confess up front I”m not a fan of the “one sport per season” solution; the seasons overlap too much.

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My initial thought is to let him figure out the one or two things he really likes and call the line at those. In the meantime, we are taking baby steps. He did T ball last summer and will again this year, but down the line we might let him try soccer, in which he’s expressed interest. And today, he’s taking his parent-teacher conference day off and going to a children’s theater workshop. We’ll see what he takes to. Of course I dream of having a drummer in the house, but I want him to find his own true love. He and his best friend both have mom and dad who are semi-professional-to-full-time-professional musicians, and neither one of them lists music as their favorite class at school. Alex loves art and P.E. So I’m anxious to see what he settles on for the short term and for the long-term.

Have a great weekend!

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 117)