Shiny New Doors

For our Thanksgiving family outing D, T and I went to see The Blind Side on Monday evening. I have read several reviews about the film since then, and many critics lead off with: "This is a feel-good football movie that..."

BLAM. I'm automatically disgusted.

In my mind, the person who would call The Blind Side a football movie is also the obtuse/lazy/self-absorbed person who would stand inside the Sistine Chapel and go, "It's cool, I guess... but why did Michaelangelo have to paint the ceiling?" Somehow, somehow, they're tripped up by the trivial and completely miss the beauty and nobility of what they're seeing.

For someone like me, there's not a CHANCE. IN. HELL. that the true message of this film was gonna get away. For someone like me, this story invokes a present-life appreciation with as much voltage as if you plastered my body with electrodes and hooked me up to the NiCad battery in Fairbanks, AK. (No frame of reference for this one? Here you go.)

A movie like this generates a sense of gratitude so amplified that it borders on the maniacal... because for someone like me, watching The Blind Side was like seeing a long-ago life of my own unfold on the screen.

I watched as the homeless Michael "Big Mike" Oher, no doubt wearied by aimless wandering, slowly lumbers his way to an all-night laundromat to sit and wait out another night—and I almost had a complete emotional breakdown right there in the theater because, although I was never technically homeless... [deep breath]... ok, here goes... I was a kid who, in a nutshell, lost her mother to cancer and her father to a seedy bar on the other side of town, and was basically left to fend for herself.

So... there are no words, none whatsoever, to describe my emotions as Michael sat in that dingy laundromat, unable to escape the fact that he belonged nowhere and to nobody. The most suitable word I can find to fit is heartbroken... I was truly heartbroken watching that scene, because for four years I felt the same waves of palpable despair, uncertainty and loneliness that he must have felt... I was submerged in those waves more times than I care to think about now.

And then Leigh Anne Touhy meets Michael for the first time, on a chilly Thanksgiving Eve. It was a no-nonsense exchange, almost a confrontation, where she looks up—WAY up—at him and says: "Don't you lie to me, now... do you have somewhere to sleep tonight?" Michael shakes his head and Leigh Anne, who wasn't going to stand for that, extends her arm and simply replies: "All right, then. Come on."

The compassion was automatic, the altruism borderline impulsive... I mean honestly, how crazy is that? Crazy enough to forever change the trajectory of five people's lives and, in turn, create a bona-fide miracle borne from human kindness.

And what would the impact be if each of us exercised benevolence with the same audacity and recklessness, even if it was only one time in our whole lives?

That, my friends, is what this movie is about.

The Touhys extended their arms, their home and their hearts, but I'll let you in on what the Touhys really did: They took Michael by the hand, led him to a clean, shiny door—one that led to the opportunity to live a better life—stood with him on the threshold and, with big grins on their faces, said: "Go ahead... open it!"

When the life you've been living is one of sorrow and hopelessness—one with very little chance that you'll escape it alive and intact, much less happy and well-adjusted—there is simply no greater gift you'll ever receive than that door. You can trust me on that one... because Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy were beaten to the punch by Bob and Carla Dirk.

In March of 1981, my father finally drank himself into an early grave and left behind the tattered remains of his life, including his three children. For a few months my sisters and I were bounced around to relatives, all of whom bickered over who was going to be saddled with raising us (nobody wanted the job). And then, on July 1, 1981, Bob and Carla scooped up my sisters and me, drove us across the country to their home, and parked us in front of our own clean, shiny new door.

Nearly 30 years later, it still astounds me to know that Michael Oher's miracle happened to me, too.

My mother and I have discussed this several times over the years; I've tried to get her to confess how difficult it really must have been—that she and my dad surely must have had buyer's remorse at some point. Seriously, how gonzo do you have to be not to second-guess adopting an unruly 11-year-old and her six-year-old twin sisters?? Her answer has always been the same:

"Well... it was a pretty simple decision, really. We just knew it was the right thing to do... which was confirmed by how easily it all fell into place. We couldn't imagine our lives any other way, and wouldn't want to."

Certifiably Insane, table for two? Right this way, please, inside the padded cell. Enjoy.

On this chilly Thanksgiving Eve, I am overwhelmed by the blessing of good health; by the love I feel from my Savior, my husband, my son, my family and my dearest friends; by the satisfaction of a career that I thoroughly enjoy, and that affords me to live in circumstances I would've never dreamed possible as a child. There are a grundle of other tender mercies too extensive to name here... but what you need to know is that I wouldn't have any of them, not a single one, without the two items permanently engraved at the top of my List of Things I Am Grateful For Beyond Any Rational and/or Describable Level:

Charity-deranged parents, and a shiny new door.

Thank you, Mom and Dad.


Brett & Dyana Valdez said...

First of all, you said yesterday there are 20 readers, not 6. Dy really wants to see that "football" movie, too. Probably catching it Friday night.

Also, it was great to see you yesterday. Miss the old times but glad things are going well.

Tennille said...

Beautiful post, Kareen. Did I not know (or maybe I forgot) that you were adopted?

If you loved the movie, maybe I will go see it. I've been turned off so far by Sandra Bullock's hair in the previews. :)

Christine said...

Just saw the movie, and I was also moved, touched, and inspired. It does hit close to home, doesn't it? Thank you for always finding the perfect words to describe EVERYTHING! Love you!!!