'Blind Side' mother's story should resonate with students

November 16th, 2010

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Kate McPherson/The Daily

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When a blonde lady from Tennessee says she’ll “beat your butt” if you don’t change your ways, you change your ways.

Leigh Anne Tuohy, the sassy mother of the family that inspired the movie “The Blind Side,” made the above threat Friday at the Oklahoma Memorial Union. Tuohy came to OU to speak about the importance of giving back, and her message resonated all the way to my seat in the far back of the Molly Shi Boren Ballroom.

It’s almost Thanksgiving, so almost every story in the trashy magazines I am hopelessly addicted to focuses on giving back. Stories of service are everywhere, and they will be until Christmas when they’ll silently go into hibernation until next year. You can’t escape articles exhorting you to do good.

Sadly, the act of doing good itself is easy to escape. I certainly evade it. It’s much easier to care only about myself; it saves me money and time. I avoid the awkward interactions that inevitably ensue when I step outside my comfort zone.

But, easy isn’t always better. Tuohy certainly didn’t seem to think so. Bouncing about the stage, she presented a challenge to the OU community: do something for someone else today that you didn’t do yesterday.

“If you got up this morning, got dressed and got to this room tonight, you are capable of changing a life,” Tuohy said.

It’s really easy to write Tuohy off as some crazed Southern belle who’ll beat you with her parasol if you disagree with her.

There’s no mistaking her Tennessee heritage when she speaks, and her claim to fame started when she yelled at her husband to turn the car around so she could help a burly teenager, whom she later adopted. Tuohy appears to be fearless.

I’m decidedly not fearless, but I find myself buying into Tuohy’s argument. In 2008, 11.4 percent of Cleveland County residents lived below the poverty line, and Oklahoma was the fourth-hungriest state, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

It’s hard not to be affected by those statistics.

That’s 11.4 percent of my community struggling to survive, and my biggest hardship is the fact that I have to eat my ice cream a pint at a time because I do not have a freezer.

Simply put, I’m lucky. I have a warm place to sleep, a meal plan and more clothes than I really need.

I don’t presume to know your financial state, but even if you’re fighting to pay your rent this month, the fact that you’re reading this column means that you have something to give back: according to the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, one in five Oklahomans grow up without the literacy skills needed to survive. You’re lucky.

Take a second to reflect on what you have. Take another second to reflect on what others do not have. Find a way to bridge those seconds, and give an hour of your time to someone who needs it.

Whether you tutor someone in reading, drop some change in the cups of whatever organization is collecting on the South Oval or adopt a 300-pound homeless football player — what you do today can impact someone else’s tomorrow.

Furthermore, a simple change you make today could save your butt from the wrath of Tuohy.

— Kate McPherson, University College freshman