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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #108
November 24, 2009

You Get What You Give

The Blind Side + THanksgiving Volunteering

All of our favorite things about Thanksgiving (family, food and football) are brought together in The Blind Side, a new film about a mother whose decision to take in a homeless child takes her family on transformative journey, and lands the boy in the competitive world of college football. Sandra Bullock stars as Leigh Anne Tuohy, a take-charge Christian woman whose heart strings are pulled when she realizes that Big Mike, an extremely large and sad boy, has no place to sleep on a cold night. Under Leigh Ann's steel magnolia tutelage, the wayward boy blossoms and within a few years, every college football coach in the nation is knocking on the door to recruit him. Based on the true story of Michael Ohers (currently playing in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens), this film is the perfect feel-good holiday film. Our kids loved watching Michael's adopted brother SJ negotiate with real college coaches, and we loved Sandra Bullock's whip-smart performance.  Most of all, we love that the film offers families ample opportunity to discuss how we can help those in need. Happy Thanksgiving!

Leigh Ann Tuohy is a tough but worthy act to follow.  Clearly both her kids and her community learned by her stunning example, and we'd like to think that the recent success of the movie will spur many to follow her charitable lead. Whether you write a check, spend time volunteering in a soup kitchen, or help your neighbor rake leaves, its great for your kids to see their parents model charitable behavior. Thanksgiving is a special time to practice charity together: we clean out our closets at this time of year, and bring gently used clothing to Goodwill. And, since food is on everyone's mind during the holidays, we call our local mission on Monday or Tuesday to find out what items are needed for Thursday's feast. All together, we head to the grocery story to buy a stack of pies (or whatever else the pantry needs).  Now that the kids are older, they like to help cut those pies in the kitchen and hand them across a table to someone hungry. When we first started bringing the kids to serve food, they were a bit scared of the strangers but soon got in the giving mood. Sharing with those in needs makes us all the more grateful for the table that we sit at together at the end of a long day.

Film Title: The Blind Side
Directed By: Johnny Lee Hancock
2009, Rated PG-13, 126

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Film:

  • Why It's Worth it: It's increasingly rare for kids and adults to enjoy a movie together and the great performances and  true story foundation of The Blind Side make it a perfect holiday outing for all kids over ten -- definitely see this one together as a family. Our teens are LOVING the film - they love Sandra Bullock's performance, the cameos by famous college football coaches who recruit Michael and the appearance of Disney star Lily Collins as Bullock's daughter.  At times a bit long, but never boring, the film pits opportunity against talent and successfully explores the complex issues of race and poverty in America. Critics may accuse the film of glossing over the big issues (it is a Hollywood movie, after all) but overall Bullock's impulses to simply reach out and help this boy are what makes the story work on it's powerful emotional level. Don't leave before the credits roll- you'll miss wonderful photographs of the real Michael, Leigh Ann and the rest of the family.
  • Red Flags: Probably best for kids over 10, because of the depiction of violence and drug-use in the world from which Michael was snatched; in one scene where Michael has run away from his new family, his former druggie neighbor infers that Michael has slept with his white sister - Michael reacts violently, and guns are shot. Nothing too violent is depicted, but another scene with his crack-addicted mother is a bleak portrait of a woman who can't remember which children were born to which of the many men in her life.
  • Further Viewing: We love The Rookie, also written and directed by Hancock, and starring Dennis Quaid as a baseball player who finally makes it to the major leagues in his forties.

Our Tips for talking with your Kids about this Film:

  • You Tube Clip: Click here for CBS's story, A Diamond in the Rough, about Michael Oher's story.
  • Critical Savvy: Do you think the film would be as strong if it weren't based on a true story?


Giving to Others

Foster care organizations and homeless shelters


Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:

  • What Works for Us: You don't have to do a lot, but it's important to do something - at this time of year, and during the other 354 days, too. Cleaning out our closets at this time of year has become a family tradition, and then we take gently used clothing to the Goodwill together.  We buy gift cards for foster kids who are the same age as our kids, and thinking about kids who don't have parents (or don't know where they are) is a sobering experience for our kids.
  • What We've Written in past Thanksgiving postings: Click here to read about Oliver and feeding the homeless in LA, and click here to learn about teaching kids about values and money with Annie.
  • Consolidate your Giving: "Among organizations working to meet people's basic needs, including food, shelter and clothing, more than half report that they are underfunded or severely underfunded for 2009" (Charity Navigator). Meaning -- it's more important to give now than ever before. Consolidating your giving is more effective so we choose charities together as a family and direct our giving in a few directions, rather than many.
  • Deciding where to give your time and money: Spend time thinking about what causes matter to you and focus your time and money accordingly - it'll be easier to integrate a volunteer commitment if that cause is close to your heart. Do you want to be involved with kids? The Homeless? A medical research organization? A political organization? Once you have narrowed your interest, it's time to decide if you want to get involved on an international, national or local level.
  • Research: It's good practice to check with Charity Navigator before sending money to an organization with which you are not familiar. This organization tracks each charity in terms of how much of the money raised actually goes to those in need, measure success and helps you find a charity you can trust.
  • Volunteer: By the time kids are in Middle School, they are expected to do Community Service and get to learn that giving of their time is a rewarding way to spend a few hours. Most organizations have activities organized in small blocks of time so as to accommodate busy volunteers. Try Volunteer Match, or ask your school administrators where they like to consolidate their community efforts.

Our Tips for Extending this Adventure;

  • Giving to the Homeless: Google shelter the name of your city and see what comes up. Often, you can call ahead and ask the food pantry what they need for their feast. 
  • Foster Children: Use Charity Navigator to help find a shelter near you.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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