At any rate, I had forgotten exactly how much that movie moved me. Sweetie and I saw it in the theater when it first came out, and today was my second viewing. Granted, I've never been homeless, and I pray I never find myself in that sort of situation. But there were a few things in that movie that just resonated with me:
- Will Smith's character Chris was a smart guy. He was a good, decent person who made some bad choices and found himself in a hole most people would have forever despaired of digging out of. And the more he tried to do the right thing, the more it seemed life was against him. I remember that blank look on his face when yet another thing went wrong in his life, I remember the upbeat front he put on for those around him while inside he beat himself up, I remember the promises that he knew were empty that things were going to get better--just one break and he'd be able to get on his feet again...and waiting in vain as that break seemingly never came. I don't think I'm overdramatizing to say that I remember all of those emotions from my own life, a decade or so ago. It's the same reason why my interaction with Derek a couple of weeks ago moved me so much. I'm in such a different place now--but I'll never forget where I was.
- One of the main things I took away from the movie was this: you never know if the guy you see in line at the soup kitchen is spending the day as a brokerage intern, and you never know if the brokerage intern at the office is spending his nights on the street. The movie is a stark reminder that we can't take for granted that the people we share time with during the day are in the same life situation we are. I'll never forget the anger and resentment I felt when I was working part time at a church as director of music--I played the organ and directed a voice choir and two bell choirs. At night I'd go home to a mattress on the floor in a roach infested apartment on the wrong side of town. I remember thinking to myself, "these people have no idea about the life I live." Just like the boss in the movie had no idea when he asked Will Smith's character to spot him 5 bucks for cab fare that he was sentencing him to a date with donating blood for money to make up the extra he needed for that day, the folks at my church had no idea about how I had every dollar in my budget accounted for by some necessity (and then some), and that the extra 5 or 10 bucks for this fundraiser or that outing was literally something I didn't have. They had no idea that the day my car came within hours of being reposessed was a Wednesday, and that it was a minor miracle I was able to conduct choir and bell rehearsal that night. Or the day I was reprimanded for wearing a sweatshirt to church to play organ for a Wednesday evening Lenten service, that was literally the only piece of clean laundry I had because I couldn't afford to go to the laundromat that week. But I know I've been guilty in my own life of some of the same behavior and making some of the same assumptions. The movie serves as an excellent reminder of what a mistake that is.
- The last thing that really hit home in The Pursuit of Happyness was a line Will Smith's character had, which was something to the effect of "I remember when I'd get a good grade on a test in school, how I'd imagine all of the great things my good grades would allow me to be in the future. But I never became any of them." As a college graduate first driving a daycare van, then going into outbound telemarketing to make a little more money ($8 an hour versus $6), I remember thinking the same things. How the hell did I get where I was? How did this happen?
I'm glad those days are behind me. But I'm glad I went through them. They helped make me the person I am now.
And they helped make The Pursuit of Happyness that much more meaningful to me.