I Beat the Odds

From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond

Book Cover: I Beat the Odds

Author: Michael Oher (with Don Yaeger)

Michael Oher is a professional football player with an amazing, true story, of rags to riches. What makes this unique is his heart for the homeless, the foster children, those who society would discount as hopeless. This was another quick read that left me with great respect for Michael Oher.

The book is divided into 21 short chapters, a fitting tribute to the constant moves from place to place as he grew up in the worst of neighborhoods. The first half of the book seemed to struggle with telling the story of his childhood. After all, no one was taking notes, posting on Facebook or other social media. Oher was part of a large family with a mother addicted to cocaine and crack who had children from men who cannot be characterized as fathers other than in the biological sense. Her addiction meant the children would be moved in and out of places they would call home, living on the streets at time, with relatives, other families, etc. The Child Protective Services had his family on their radar and they did what they could to keep the children from harm.

I get the impression that Oher really wants the book to speak to those who are in similar circumstances. I don't know him personally, but if I were to ask him a question I think I would ask him to tell me about his intended audience. I suspect he would light up and tell me story after story about "E" and Molly and Jyi and others, children who found inspiration in his story and are fighting to beat odds that are stacked against them.

Oher doesn't need my approval for his writing style or applause for his ability to start every game in his NFL career as an offensive lineman, though the latter must be significant since it takes incredible physical endurance. No, he's not looking for fame and fortune in this book, those things have been afforded him through football. He's out to win the hearts of the teenager who's choosing between drugs and books, gangs and sports, good and evil--those that are in terrible situations where the path out of the ghetto is nearly impossible to see.

I'm really sad about his biological mother. Her addiction has warped her mind and caused her to lose any sense of what it means to be a mother. That's not news to anyone, but it is sad.

On the other hand, I'm really impressed by the Tuohy family. They didn't go seeking Michael to complete a Sunday School checklist or earn heavenly points, they simply saw someone in need and jumped in with both feet. It'll be interesting to read their story (next on my book list).

My prayer for Michael Oher is that he will continue to be the role model for youth, that his example would lead others out of such dire circumstances. My prayer for those of us who call Christ our Savior is that we would see the need to jump in and help local organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, Big Brothers, etc. Oher lists a ton of service providers for us to consider. The main point is this: get involved somewhere that fits your personality, your gifting and listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

One final note. As we volunteer in these organizations, we don't have to try to have stories of our own to relate to the kids--we can now point to Michael Oher, the guy who beat the odds, and encourage them to do the same.

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