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Loving Others Through Our Giving

with Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy | July 16, 2010

There are daily opportunities to share the love of Christ. Today Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the couple whose lives the movie The Blind Side was based on, share some practical ways to spread God’s love.

There are daily opportunities to share the love of Christ. Today Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the couple whose lives the movie The Blind Side was based on, share some practical ways to spread God’s love.

Loving Others Through Our Giving

With Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy
|
July 16, 2010
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  There are opportunities all around us every day to demonstrate the love of Christ in tangible ways by giving to others.  Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy are committed to the power of cheerful giving.

Sean:  We left a gift for the garbage man.  I can’t remember what it was but it was a nice gift. We were telling somebody and they went “Well, that’s a great idea!  I never thought about that!” 

My wife, who is a subtle as a sledge hammer, looks at that person and says, “What’s so hard about that?  You know where they are every week.  It’s not like it’s a surprise.”  She’s like, “You ought to get to know your garbage man.”  The people kind of looked at us and said, “You know, I never thought about that.”

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, July 16th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  The truth is most of us have never thought about the opportunities all around us every day to demonstrate generous, kind giving.  We’re going to hear about that today.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You know, when you get into the subject of spiritual gifts you get into a kind of a controversial subject, and I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of the gift of giving.  That’s one of the gifts that’s listed in the spiritual gifts.  That’s one that most people don’t think of as controversial until you start asking them…

Dennis:  …to give.

Bob:  Yes!  Then it gets real controversial all of a sudden!

(laughter)

Dennis:  It really does.  The couple I’m about to introduce…well, they don’t live by this passage perfectly, but this is one of their core messages of their lives.  It’s from the second epistle to the church of Corinth, 2 Corinthians 9, verse 7.  It says, “Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.” 

Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy join us on FamilyLife Today.  You guys really believe in giving, don’t you?

Sean:  You can trace it right back to that passage.  I mean, that’s the one that got me.  I’ll never forget that one being explained, I’d never heard the word ‘tithe’ before.  It was a four-part series on giving, and you know how that goes over really well in a church.

Bob:  Yes, that’s when everybody goes for vacation.

Leigh Anne:  Exactly!

(laughter)

Sean:  They say that’s the roaches to the light.  You know, as soon as that light comes on, they take off, and it really hit with me.  I never thought about the fact that you were happy about getting rid of something.  We all try to amass and that’s the exact passage that hit me.

Dennis:  You actually got copies of the message the pastor gave and…explain to our listeners what you did to get a mindset of giving.  What you did with that message.

Sean:  Well, I got the message, and at the time, I had to drive three to four hours a week each way to go to work and I would listen to it.  I think I got it the first time hoping that I wouldn’t agree with it because it certainly hit me when I heard it live.  I just kept hearing it, kept hearing it, kept hearing it, and then it got to be almost like music to me. 

It really became a part of my drive, and I kept waiting for that part of it, and then I’d wait for another part of the passage.  What I thought it was doing was putting me in a good mood to where I couldn’t wait to do something in the way of giving.  It’s a mindset but it’s really a heart set. 

My wife when she’s speaks to people, and she says it well, in that it doesn’t matter the size.  It doesn’t matter the amount.  It matters how cheerful, and that’s exactly correct.  Just in common sense thinking, if you do something that you enjoy you’re going to want to do it again.  I think that’s what God had in mind.  “If I can get people to do things cheerfully, they’re going to do it more.”  Well, what could you want have done more than giving? 

This sounds horrible but I equated it to the person who plays golf and you’re out there and your golf ball is sitting there, and it’s so tempting to move the thing just a little bit here or there.  Well, when you got into your mind that you’re never going to touch that golf ball, that you’re going to be happy with wherever it lands, you’re going to play better golf.  It’s because you’re never trying to think of a way out.  You’re looking for wherever it lands, it’s going to be a positive situation, because you got to play it either way. 

I think that’s the same way.  If it’s something that you’re looking forward to you’re going to do it more often and you’re going to do it better. 

Dennis:  You two…your lives and your family embody giving in the movie, The Blind Side.  Of course, it’s a story of how you, as a business man in Memphis, and Leigh Anne, you as a mom, took in a young man who was homeless, out of the foster care system, and ultimately adopted him, Michael Oher, and raised him to graduate from high school, and then from college to going on to play professional football with the Baltimore Ravens.  I keep wanting to refer to him as the Colts because they were the Colts when I grew up.

Sean:  Well, that means you’re old.

(laughter)

Dennis:  Yes, exactly!

Sean:  Don’t say that!  That’s radio, they don’t know that!

Dennis:  They don’t!  They don’t!

Sean:  Hey, we’re 27!

Dennis:  That’s exactly right!

(laughter)

But you guys, your lives and your story is a story of redemption and many times redemption begins with a gift.  I know it does with our Heavenly Father.  He sent His son and gave the gift of Him to redeem us, to give us eternal life.  You gave a gift to a young man and have really recalibrated your lives around giving.  How do you look at giving personally, Leigh Anne?

Leigh Anne:  Well, it’s kind of interesting.  I think giving is immensely important.  I believe in my heart that God’s going to get it whether you give it or not.  I’ll tell these people that will say, “I got to have my…I need four new tires, my air conditioner broke, and my…”  They just go through all these lists of things, and I just kind of laugh and go, “You just don’t understand giving is a part of what we’re all supposed to be doing.” 

I really believe that God gives you what you have to see what you’re going to do with it.  Sean and I both feel like we’ve been very blessed and that what we have we are supposed to use it to do good things with it. 

Recently in a drive-through line, I looked at the car behind me, and just from the looks of the car and the kids that were in it, it just didn’t look like had a whole lot.  So, I asked the lady, “How much is the order behind me?”  She told me, and I paid for it. 

I said, “When they get up here, just tell them that the lady in front of them wanted to do something nice for them to do something nice for somebody else.”  It was like six dollars and eighty cents.  I was ready to hand the lady a 20 dollar bill, and she was like seven bucks, and I was like, “Wow.”

Sean:  You must have been at Taco Bell, then.

(laughter)

A shameless product placement.

Bob:  Yes, product placement.

Leigh Anne:  Although it actually…

Dennis:  You get up every day, though, thinking about giving.  That’s how you live your life.  I don’t hear it being segmented over to Sunday morning when the offering plate is passed.

Leigh Anne:  No, that’s an easy one…the Sunday offering plate’s a gimme. 

Bob:  A gimme as in you’re going to do that.

Leigh Anne:  Yes, that’s easy…that’s not even fun.

(laughter)

Bob:  Let me ask you if you pull up to the stoplight and there’s a guy there on the corner with the sign and the bucket, are you giving?

Leigh Anne:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

Bob:  But aren’t you worried about being scammed?

Leigh Anne:  Sean’s philosophy, and the kids and I have adopted it, is God’s going to judge our heart because we have the ability to give, and we’re to give.  But God’s also going to judge his heart if he shouldn’t have taken it, and he can deal with that.  If he can look at himself in the mirror, that’s his responsibility.  I did what I was supposed to do.

Bob:  If he’s down buying a bottle of Mad Dog with that, that’s his deal?

Leigh Anne:  Then, God will judge…that’s his deal.  God will judge his heart for that.

(laughter)

Sean:  It eliminates the grey.  There is no justification in giving.

Dennis:  You’re not trying to do their job and your job.  You just take care of your job, you’re saying?

Sean:   And, in that passage that you read that there’s no amount given.  God doesn’t say…who gives a lot.

Bob:  God loves a cheerful giver who gives a lot, right.

Dennis:  You know, I was with a …a widow of a business man not too long ago up in Northwest Arkansas, and she was talking about her husband and he used to do when he got old enough to receive social security. 

Now, he had done well enough in business.  He didn’t need social security.  But every month the social security check came he decided he would cash it and put it in his left pocket and throughout each day of the month, he would give away his social security check in pieces to a single mom at a grocery store like you’re talking about, or a woman with a bunch of children needing to fill up her car with gas. 

His widow was beaming telling stories about her husband and how he had been what you’re talking about here, a cheerful giver.  I wonder sometimes if our fingers aren’t just a little too tight around this in America because we do tend to view working to get, but you believe we need to be able to get to what?

Sean:  I think we just need to get to where it doesn’t matter on our end.  I really think we’re not smart enough to organize our giving.  It’s kind of like that guy.  We really talk about and we invented it so we’re going to market it.  We invented the popcorn theory.  People go, “What do you mean by that?” 

It sits in the bottom of a pan and all these kernels are just burning.  You don’t which one needs because they’re just sitting there.  Well, the one that gets the hottest is going to pop up and hit you in the face.  That’s the one that needs you. 

Well, that’s what that guy did.  He walked around with the money and whenever popcorn would hit him in the face, he hit it.  If you’re organized and you’re thoughtful and all that kind of stuff to me you’re sometimes kind of worried about the end result.  Where ours is, it hits us in the face and then boom, it’s gone, and that way we’re not concerned about the next. 

If we’re supposed to give, it’s going to hit us.  And you got to look in the pan of popcorn, though.  If you’re looking away it’s going to keep popping all you want and you’ll miss every one of them.

Dennis:  Yes, and that’s what you do.  Your spiritual antenna is up.  You have a radar on as you guys get up during the day that you’re scanning, looking for opportunities to give, right?

Leigh Anne:  Well, we do.  I’m a little bit organized with the kids as far as giving because I think it’s very important that they realize the value of it.  Every month we will say, “Okay, here’s the amount that you can give this month.  You need to keep your eyes open and you need to look around for an opportunity for this to be used someplace that you deem in your heart is important and special and the need is there.” 

It’s been very interesting.  Sean Jr. will come home and say, “I have so-and-so at my school that’s doing three jobs, Mom.  Oh my gosh, they’re doing this and that and they’re only sleeping two hours a day,” and then Collins will come in and say, “One of the girls is getting ready to run track and she’s running the 440 in basketball high-top tennis shoes.”  Or Michael would say…

So we have made them aware that you need to pick.  They will give to what the special need is and that’s where they use their money.  And with their movie money we were very insistent that it was not a large amount of money, but that a percentage of what they got was going to be given to a certain spot and we wanted them to kind of track it and watch the results of it. 

I do believe you need to instill this in your children.  You need to have a goal for them to reach and for them in their soul and their heart to learn to be cheerful givers.  You teach them everything else and you need to teach them to be givers. 

Kids are immensely intelligent.  I’m amazed at how much young kids know so you can instill in your children to be givers just like you can instill in them that they can’t steal, that they can’t lie.  We do believe that you need to do that with your kids.

Dennis:  You two actually orchestrated events to make your children aware that there were those that…

Leigh Anne:  Yes.

Dennis:  …had less or didn’t have much at all.  You tell a story about bridge building, about a counselor who set up a situation.  I found out that to be very interesting.

Leigh Anne:  It’s a great organization.  Sean Jr.’s just gotten old enough to participate in it this summer.  You start before your junior year in high school.  It’s a group here in Memphis called Bridges started by the Wilson family.  It’s just a great organization.  They bring in kids…well you explain to them what they do.

Sean:  What they do is they bridge the gap between social and economical differences.  They force it and it is very organized.  It’s a great deal.  It brings everybody down to the common level, and then all of a sudden you’re looking around, and you’re really not any different.  You’re not in a situation where you can’t do something good.  I don’t care how bad you are this puts everybody in the exact same level, no matter where you’re from.  It’s a great organization.

Dennis:  And that organization actually put a bunch of young people in the same room and they turn the lights off…

Leigh Anne:  They do.

Dennis:  And then actually ask them several questions?

Sean:  It was a separating-type process.  Who’s going to get a car when they’re 16, you take one step to the right; if you’re not, take one step to the left.  Who’s got a mom and dad take one step to the right, you know, if you don’t, take one step to the left.  And then, they asked all these very, very simple questions. 

If they were simple to one side, to the other side they were very impactful.  Then they would turn the lights on and our daughter was in the process.  She looked and there were people way on the other end of her.  She didn’t even realize that the common things that she woke up to every day were separating things.

Leigh Anne:  Do you sleep in a bed by yourself?  Take one step to the right.  I mean, some of them got that organic, just very basic. 

Sean:  It makes you realize…

Bob:  If you had more than one bathroom in your house, kind of things, right?

Leigh Anne:  Exactly they were those kinds of questions.

Sean:  You mentioned earlier about the person in Northwest Arkansas.  This is a country that’s made up of people like that.  Sometimes we’re preaching to the choir but sometimes it doesn’t hurt if you’re in the choir sometimes to get preached to. 

That’s what thought the movie did.  We really believe and this may be really crazy and naïve but if you sat there and watched the movie something was going to happen.  You either looked up there and said, “That’s me.  Boy, am I glad to see myself up there.  I’m pretty happy with myself.”  There’s nothing wrong with being happy with yourself.  Or you sat there and identified with the school teachers or the coaches or something like that to people who were giving.  Or it bothered you but you left differently than you came in.

For a movie to do that in this day and age, no one got shot, no one got chased, and no one got blown up. It’s got to really shake the movie people of the world.  The margin of what this costs and what this is going to bring in has to be one of the greatest margins ever.

Leigh Anne:  They can’t figure it out.  Hollywood cannot figure it out.  It’s so funny.

Sean:  No, and that is all it is.  If they would just sit and realize that it was America who’s made up of great people looking at themselves up there going, “Okay, alright.  I like that.  I’m going to keep doing that.” or, “Man, I think I can do that.  That isn’t that hard.” 

That’s all it is and we need to turn the lights off in our country sometimes to realize how good we’re doing.  There’s nothing wrong with patting ourselves on the back.  But sometimes the choir needs to get preached to, and maybe that’s what that movie did a little bit.

Bob:  Talk a little bit because I know this is something that as focused as you are on trying to be givers and encourage others to be givers, you do see a distinction between giving and enabling, and that’s something that we got to be aware of, right?

Leigh Anne:  Oh yes, because we get obviously squirrely mail daily…the guy that wants you to send him $300 because he just didn’t have the money to take his family on a cruise this year.  Really?  I mean, we do not have “stupid” written across our foreheads. 

(laughter)

So, you definitely have to discern between those that are just…

Sean:  But it’s amazing sometimes the ones that hit you.  There was an organization here in town we’ve never heard of and we try to read everything.  If somebody goes to the time to get it to us, they deserve…

Leigh Anne:  Eventually we’ll get it read.

Sean:  It ended up being one of the best organizations we hadn’t even heard of.  It’s a crazy country out there.  Leigh Anne travels all over the world almost.  I call her a rock star.  And people all over the country are doing some incredible things.  You have no idea and for us it’s been a blessing. 

I was in Seattle and they were doing some stuff that people in Miami have never heard of.  But then you go to Miami and they’re kind of doing the same thing, but they don’t know each other. 

It’s amazing the country that we put together that we beat ourselves up over, I mean you turn the news on and we’re a horrible place.  Well turn the channel maybe because there are some people doing some good stuff, and we’re just kind of part of it. 

We were fortunate or unfortunate to have our names plastered on it.  It depends upon what side of the ledge that you’re looking over or what day it is.  But you could have put a lot of folks on that screen, and that’s what I think was so good about that movie.  It really didn’t exclude us from everybody it included us with a lot of folks.

Dennis:  Sean, I couldn’t agree with you more.  In fact, as Bob and I were coming in here to do the interview today, I told him “I think there are tons of men and women, singles, marrieds, and families around the nation that are doing heroic things for other human beings.  They’re not making movies about them.  But you know what?  They found your story.  They found yours and it’s around the age-old theme of redemption, how you redeem something that is lost.

Leigh Anne:  The interesting thing to us is that The Blind Side was written by a nonbeliever and he is so perplexed to how it’s gotten to this.  I said, “Dude, you just held the pen.  You did not write this and one day you will realize that.”

Dennis:  Well, he tapped in to the story of human history.  The God of the universe is all about redemption.

Leigh Anne:  Exactly.

Dennis:  It’s why he wants us to be involved with the orphan.

Leigh Anne:  Exactly.

Dennis:  He wants us to tap into what His heart’s all about, which if He didn’t adopt us, we’d be in serious trouble!  But He gave the ultimate gift.  I just want to thank you both for being cheerful givers, I’m sure not all the time.

Sean:  No, unfortunately.

(laughter)

Dennis:  But for being obedient and I’m sure it’s been more than once, but in this case, for being obedient to pick up that young man off the side of the road and take a step of faith.  I look back over my life and I think, “You know, it’s so easy to be afraid and to step back and to live in fear, and to not step out and obey God and to do the hard thing.  To risk in a step of faith.”  You guys have done that and I applaud you.  I hope, as I know you do, that this spawns a jillion movies in Hollywood.

(laughter)

Leigh Anne:  Well, there…

Dennis:  …of wholesome stories of redemption of human beings who cared enough to reach out to a person in need and who made a difference.

Bob:  There are some things happening, aren’t there?

Leigh Anne:  There are some things happening.  I’ve even gotten a couple things from producers to want to work on scripts with them, and these are guys that have done big projects. I just find it so interesting.  Do they think just because one of us would do it, it’ll be the next Blind Side?   Who knows, but the opportunity is there to do more of this that will make people aware of the needs than the so-be-its. 

The challenge I guess today is we know everybody can’t go out and adopt a 6’6”, 350 pound black kid.  But you can do something.  You can do something. If you start little, the rewards that you’ll receive will…it will snowball.  It will snowball into something greater.  I promise you it will.

Dennis:  I like what you say in your book.  You don’t necessarily have to do something big but you ought to do something.

Leigh Anne:  Just do something and do it well.

Bob:  And as you’ve tried to practice that over the years, you’ve seen God honor that over and over again.  In fact, I want to encourage our listeners to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com.  We’ve got a bonus audio feature online where we just ask you to share some of your favorite stories of giving and how you’ve seen God bless those efforts as you’ve tried to be faithful givers.  So go to FamilyLifeToday.com.  There’s the audio feature there and we’ve got a video clip there as well where we talked a little bit about the movie and the Oscars.

And we’ve got a handful of our listeners who already practice what you guys preach.  They are cheerful givers and we know that because from time to time, they will contact us and make a donation to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  I want to say thanks to those of you who do help support the ministry.  Your donations make it possible for us to be on this station every day and we appreciate your financial support. 

This month, if you’re able to make a donation of any amount to support FamilyLife Today, we would love to send you a thank you gift and the gift we’ll send you is Sean and Leigh Anne’s new book called In a Heartbeat:  Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving.  So when you go online or call and make a donation of any amount this month, you can ask for a copy of that book. 

If you’re donating online at FamilyLifeToday.com and you’d like a copy of the book, type the word ‘HEARTBEAT’ into the key code box that you’ll find on the online donation form, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Make a donation by phone and just ask for a copy of Sean and Leigh Anne’s new book, and again, we’re happy to send it out to you, and we do appreciate your support of the ministry.  Thanks for whatever you’re able to do financially to partner in keeping us on the air.

I hope you have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend and I hope you can join us on Monday when David Delk’s going to be here.  We’re going to talk about a very simple prayer that a couple can pray for their marriage that we believe God can use in a powerful and profound way.  We’ll talk about it Monday.  I hope you can be back with us for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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