Here’s the true story behind the movie: Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy took in Michael Oher, a teenager whose mother was addicted to crack and whose father was absent. The entire Tuohy family helped Michael raise his grades while he also started playing football, in which he excelled. The Tuohys adopted him, and he graduated from high school and went to college on a football scholarship. In college he was a huge success in football and also made the honor roll. Today he is a starting player for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
Something struck me while watching the movie’s portrayal of that true experience – it’s one thing to feel compassion and love for others, but it’s another to feel it so deeply that you commit to doing something to profoundly change another’s life. Leigh Anne Tuohy said in a recent television interview: “I just think Michael needed somebody, and it was so evident that there was nobody in his life. And to me, it just broke my heart” (ABC News, Dec. 23, 2009). And that’s why, on a rainy night in Memphis, when she saw Michael walking alone in shorts and a T-shirt, she invited him to come and stay at her family’s home.
Real love and caring are always accompanied by action that makes a difference in someone’s life. Jesus explained this kind of caring by telling the following story: A man who was traveling was robbed, beaten, and left half dead. At different times, two people passed by this man, saw him, but didn’t help him. Then another man – someone whose social status was significantly lower than that of the other two people – saw the man. Instead of walking by, he stopped, bandaged his wounds, and brought him to an inn, where he paid for his lodging. Jesus made the point that this is the model for loving one’s neighbor that his followers should adopt (see, for example, Luke 10:25–37, The New Testament in Modern English, J.B. Phillips).
Especially in the light of Jesus’ teachings, it’s easy to be deeply moved by the Tuohys’ example. Doing what they did included difficult times for everyone involved. But it’s also easy to feel left out – to think that doing something extraordinarily unselfish is beyond us. It seems almost impossible to admit that we, too, could be such an example.
So here’s a question I’ve been asking myself: Is expressing this profound love possible only for the Tuohys and a handful of other such heroes we read about? Do they possess some special quality or ability that the rest of us don’t have?
If we approach the answer strictly from the standpoint of human reasoning, then it’s logical to conclude that some people are just more hard-wired or programmed to be loving. One might decide it’s because of their backgrounds – that they were raised by loving parents, or trained as children to care for others.
But what if we approach the question from a spiritual standpoint that begins with God as the Creator of each one of us? This kind of spiritual reasoning leads us in a very different direction. It tells us that God created each one of us as His child, and that we include the capacity to love freely, profoundly, unselfishly – without limits or fear. The Bible says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:10).
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote: “Man is idea, the image, of Love; ...” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 475). This means that all of us, men and women, reflect God’s love and the ability to express it in unlimited ways. God, who is infinite, is the source of that love. So we’re not left having to somehow make ourselves more loving; we just need to understand more and more that we have an unlimited capacity to love because the source of all love is in an infinite God, who actually is Love itself.
As we accept these spiritual truths, we will feel more capable and willing to express this love in small and big ways that we may have never even thought of before.