Monday, July 26, 2010

The Eyes Wide Open Side

Have you seen the movie The Blind Side? It was one of my favorite movies last year. I was completely inspired by the story of pro football player Michael Oher. The son of a drug-addicted, empoverished woman, Michael goes through a series of foster homes before a chance meeting at school with the Tuohy family. Sean and Leigh Anne are well-off folks with big hearts. They end up adopting Michael, fighting for him to do better in school, urging him to learn to play football, providing the inspiration and support for him to succeed. It's a story that gets you right in the heart and I'm not surprised that the movie was a sensation.

How many of us have done anything comparable to what the Tuohy family did for that young man? How many of us would? I've heard some more cynical folks suggest that it was easy for them since they had successful businesses and money to spare. I don't care how big someone's bank account might be. Taking someone into your family is an investment of your heart, along with your time, energy and money.

You hear stories about other people who go beyond themselves to truly offer care, shelter and layers of support for people in need. I've seen numerous families like this on Extreme Makover: Home Edition and am thrilled that those people have their goodness repaid with new homes. Still, I'm removed from them, and from the Tuohys. They're people I see on the small and large screen.

Then there's my friend R and his family. (I don't know how he'd feel about me using his name, so I'll keep it simple.) He and my brother met in college and became friends, so I've known him now for most of my life. He has never been anything but warm, kind and loving to me -- even when I was firmly in the pain in the ass younger sister roll. I've gotten to see R enough over the years to have a real friendship.

He impresses me no end. R has three daughters by blood, five other sons and daughters through marriage. I don't think I've ever heard the word "step" applied to any of the kids who came into his life when he married their mothers. They are all kids of his heart. In the last couple of years, the family has grown by one additional youngster who is related by neither blood nor marriage. I think M is a son by need. He needed a family and R and the rest of the clan opened up theirs and made room.

Unlike the Tuohy family of Tennessee, R isn't rolling in money with a near-mansion sized home and a pair of luxurious vehicles in the spacious garage. The four oldest are out on their own -- and amazing women in their own right. (Side note to the ones who read this blog: Yes, this means you! I think you're amazing women and I'm proud to be an honorary aunt.) Even with some of them out of the nest, I don't know how R manages to support the rest, but he does. He provides them with a home, stability, and emotional support, and he models for them admirable, honorable, caring behavior. He's an outspoken proponent of human rights -- whether through Amnesty International or Students for a Free Tibet -- a supporter of the environment, and just an all around good guy.

This week, I feel like he's our own personal Blind Side story. M, that newest son, is heading off to college in the fall and is coming up a little short in financial aid. Determined to help him get what he needs for the upcoming year, R and the family reached out to their friends. I have no doubt that the goal will be met.

I want to thank R for modeling for the rest of us what it means to really open up your heart and your home. The experience of the last 24 hours is a warm, positive, reminder that when we help each other, we truly make the world better for everyone.


Becky said...

That's so beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Mary Stella.

Hope said...

R really is amazing! ;)