Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Invisible People...

The other night I finally got around to seeing The Blind Side, and of course I enjoyed it. Part way through the movie it occurred to me how similar the story was to Precious. I didn't care for Precious the first time I watched it, but on the wise advice of Phinnaeus, I watched it again, and I'm glad I did. I was able to get past the bleakness of the movie, and the awful language, and see the souls of the young woman and the people who were trying to help her. And the more I watched, the more I could again see the similarity to The Blind Side. In both movies, the teenagers were at the very bottom of society, with no hope of any future. They were each sent to alternative-type schools, but again with no great expectations for their ability to achieve an education. And they were each helped by one person who saw a glimmer -- a spark -- that they were indeed something special. The Blind Side is a true story, and Precious is fiction, but they both resonate with the same message -- don't give up on people who appear to be invisible.

How many times have we walked past invisible people -- perhaps in the hallways at school, or on the street, or with a group of people we know? And, in the alternative, how many times have we felt invisible ourselves? I think everyone has at one time or another, and it's frustrating and demoralizing. Imagine what it must be like for someone on the fringes of society. How many Einsteins or Van Goghs or Beethovens are we overlooking?

There was once a homeless man here in Vancouver by the name of Frank Paul. He was a Mi'kmaq from New Brunswick, and a police officer "accidentally" left Mr. Paul in a back alley in the middle of winter, and he died of hypothermia. I used to see Mr. Paul occasionally, and every time I saw him, I could see a spark of something in his eyes. There was something in there -- a great artist or musician -- and I could see he knew it too. I could also see the look of sadness and shame in his eyes, because he knew there was no hope for him.

I didn't think either Precious or The Blind Side were by any means the greatest movies I've ever seen. One was too brutal, and the other was a bit like a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" TV movie, but I enjoyed them. If you haven't seen them, I would definitely recommend them.


lakeviewer said...

Indeed! These stories are part of our lives too, our country's life, our human life. We may not be in those circumstances, but we could lose everything in a blink of an eye. We too could become invisible.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Jo. You have such a good heart!

I often feel invisible and unimportant to many people...because I'm old.

Land of shimp said...

I remember you mentioning Mr. Paul in the past, Jo. I feel as if he was known to me already, through what you wrote. Isn't that one of the more miraculous things about blogs? You brought him into my life in the past, and when you mentioned him again, he was someone about whose fate I cared already, threw you.

Just one of those ways in which writing about compassion can help extend it out, into the world. There's worth in words.

I haven't seen either movie yet, and you aren't the first person I know to have said that about Precious -- that the story, the moving parts of it, the admirable parts are best glimpsed through a second viewing. The first time is all about absorbing the shock of the story. After that, you feel it. I'll keep that in mind, and thanks to your writing this, I'm far more likely to watch it myself, keeping that in mind. As I said, someone else told me that, but you and I tend to have similar reactions to things.

There's a British documentary series that starts with an installment in the 1960s called 7 Up, following the lives of British children. Every seven years the filmmaker returned and filmed the participants who were willing to be a part of it again, carrying on through to 49 Up.

One of the participants who was filmed as a little boy was just entirely delightful, and imaginative as little boy of seven. If I'm recalling this correctly, his name is Paul. By the time 21 Up rolled around, he was struggling terribly with mental health issues and by 28 UP he was essentially homeless. Just a man battling his inner demons, and it was so hard to see as he had been the little boy most easily loved in the first installment.

But a wonderful thing happened, one of the other boys/men from that series -- an incredibly sweet man -- saw his plight after the installment was released, and quite simply went and got him. Taking him into his home, helping him get a council flat, and eventually in the next installment, that's where the series found him. Living in a council flat in the Shetlands, involved in local theater. By the next installment after that, he was a local councilmen, involved in community concerns.

He had a life, with dignity, and the ability to be happy all because another man, chosen by the same documentarian, felt an affinity with him and felt he could help.

That's not how everyones story turns out, or even can turn out, but that man was saved, led back to a life that contributed because someone saw him as a brother, rather than a frightening, sick man, trapped in the confines of his own head.

He wasn't entirely lost, he just needed help being found.

Land of shimp said...

through you...not "threw". Heavens, sorry about that Jo, I've got a ton of things going on in the background, but I've no intention of hurling you around, willy nilly!


Hi - this post was timely. Last night we went gambling; I noticed the lady who cleans the bathroom looked so tired yet she tried to smile at me when I came in.

Before I left, I asked her what size ring she wore and it was my size. So I took off my diamond ring and gave it to her; she cried and was so happy.

I realized I'll never miss that ring, but I'd miss her smile if she weren't around.

We always give gifts to the UPS man; the mail carrier - our regular waitress, and the guard who works late hours protecting our home.

When I see a person by the side of the road, I give them a bottle of water and a $20 bill so they can have a good meal.

I never miss what I give, and have wonderful memories of those smiling faces to whom I remembered to give them something; smile, and let them know I care.

Katy said...

What a great post Jo. You always give me a lot to think about.

Jo said...

Lakeviewer, yes, there but for the grace of God goes any one of us. It's very true, isn't it?

Carla, goodness you are not old! You're the same age as Helen Mirren, Goldie Hawn, Cher, etc.... :-)

Alane, I remember watching that series, and I loved it. And I remember that darling little boy who grew up to be the troubled man, and I was very touched by the fellow who helped him. It reminded me of someone I knew here in Vancouver, who slept in his car. What a sad soul, with so much potential. It reminds me of the poem by Emily Dickinson:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Diane, you gave away your diamond ring? Omigawd, when a generous thing to do...! What a kind soul you are. I do believe that acts of charity like that come back to us two-fold. The feeling you must have when you do it must be such a reward! It reminds me of a quote my Dad used to say all the time, but St. Francis of Assisi: "Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance."

Katy, thank you! I try to make my blog interesting. :-) And I could not help but see the similarities between the two movies.

SparkleFarkle said...

During my freshman year of high school, I tucked this Vincent van Gogh quote in my wallet, where I have carried it with me ever since:

"ONE MAY HAVE A BLAZING hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever comes to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way."

We've got to keep our eyes and hearts WIDE open.

Jo said...

Sparkle, omigawd, that is incredible...! I think Van Gogh may be been referring to himself, and the fact that he thought he was a failure, even though he knew how talented he was. Talk about synchronicity. My goodness!

myletterstoemily said...

great review of two 'precious' movies

when you referred to invisible people,
i thought you might enjoy the book,
"same kind of different as me."

another true story!

Owen said...

Haven't seen either of these, but now I want to... the magic of blogging... and the magic of Jo ! Your kindness shines in posts like this one...

DJan said...

I read "Same Kind of Different As Me," and I've seen "The Blind Side." I also read the book that "Precious" was based on, because in my town they had ONE showing of Precious at 10:30 at night for ONE WEEK and then it went away... but I will see it. The book was hard to read, but I think it might have been the easier way to get the story because I could put it down and then pick it up again. "Blind Side" was indeed a Hollywood story, but it was a true one. I think we can and do make differences in the lives of others as we see them as people, real, and in need... But you can't force it, it must come from the heart.

Wolynski said...

America is not very good at encouraging talent. You're worth more as a bank teller, than if you stayed home and painted the Mona Lisa.

But then the artist never had it easy - Van Gogh and Mozart were considered wastrels in their day.

Don't know about "Precious" - haven't seen it yet and am not rushing to put it on my Netflix queue - will do eventually. Have a feeling it's a hard watch.

Mia said...

Every successful person got help on the way. Self-made men may not have all the right family connections but somebody somewhere helped them.

The difference between success and failure isn't drugs, laziness, ambition, persistence. Lots of successful people have used drugs and are lazy sometimes. Lots of unsuccessful people have ambition and persistence. The difference is who helped out along and the way and how.

Cloudia said...

This is a very worthwhile post that everyone should read, Jo.

Aloha from Hawaii my Friend!

Comfort Spiral

The Panorama said...

Jo, I agree totally. I liked both the films. I had trouble watching "Precious " as it was too raw and brutal but I still liked it.
The thing is both these characters would not have made it if they hadn't got any help.
Very nice post, Jo:)

DUTA said...


In other words, the difference between success and failure is Luck which also includes someone to help on the way.

Blue Ridge Mountains said...

Carla hit the nail on the head. Sad but true!

Jo said...

Lea, thank you. I am always looking for something good to read, and I prefer non-fiction to fiction. I'm going to check it out.

Owen, thank you! My goodness. I think you would enjoy these movies, as well.

DJan, I'm going to see if I can find "Same Kind of Different as Me" today. I am looking for a good book to read. "Precious" was a very difficult movie to watch, but it was excellent the second time.

Wolynski, "You're worth more as a bank teller, than if you stayed home and painted the Mona Lisa." I think that's true everywhere, unfortunately. The arts are always the last thing to be funded, and the first thing to be cut. And yet the arts are the soul of humanity.

Mia, yes! Often it is who you know, rather than what you know. People who get support from others, either financial, moral -- whatever -- always seem to get a bit further ahead. It's not about capability or potential. I can attest to that.

Cloudia, my goodness, thank you. And Aloha to you...! :-)

Saroj, yes, I had difficulty watching Precious the first time. Once I got past the brutality, I thought it was a wonderful story.

Duta, yes, luck. We don't find luck on our own, unfortunately. Doors open because they are opened for us. Too true!

Blue Ridge Mountains, yes, I guess it is sad but true. The invisible people. We live in a youth oriented society.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

They are both on our Netflix queue but haven't received either yet. We just got The Hurt Locker and will probably watch it tomorrow.

If it is true that no two people are alike and that we are all as unique as snowflakes, then surely a great deal of beauty, talent, intelligence and goodness is being overlooked every day because it is not in a fancy package.