A couple of weeks ago, I watched the movie, ‘Soul Surfer’. I had seen the beginning of it previously and I generally knew the story of where a teenager loses her arm in a shark attack and then works her way back to being a competitive surfer. I don’t think it got great reviews but any true story of overcoming unbelievable odds is worth checking out. Well, back to the story of me watching the story. I got bored for a moment and flopped down on the couch and started watching this movie from where I quit watching it before. The story was very powerful but I think the part that impacted me the most was the overall process that our heroine went through and how she found the power to move forward. What draws us to stories like this is often the overcoming of overwhelming physical challenges that we can’t even imagine having to deal with. Our bodies can handle so much more than we believe we can and if we look we see this time and time again. I was just recently reminded of Jim Abbot, a major league pitcher for several years who even threw a no-hitter in 1993. He was born with only one arm! Of course it’s not the physical limitations that keep us from our possibilities, it’s how we think. We have to mentally become a new person or perhaps more correctly, we need to find the real person inside and free them from our self-imposed mental limitations.
After recovering from the shark attack, the main character in the movie wanted so badly to get back to what she felt was her most important passion in her life – surfing. She learned to make adjustments so that she could surf with only one arm. Obviously, these were substantial adjustments! Before you knew it she was ready to compete. She jumped right back in and was battling her former nemesis, who wouldn’t cut her any slack even after she lost her arm (we always have to have someone we love to hate). Well the evil nemesis wins and our heroine is shattered, feeling she just can’t do it. She’s a failure and she shouldn’t have even tried. This is where Soul Surfer turns into soul searcher. She has a good friend who is also her Christian mentor that is headed to Haiti to volunteer after the horrible tsunami created overwhelming devastation. She travels with her friend to Haiti to help the needy and of course, she is the one who ends up being helped the most.
There are two big ‘aha’ moments for our surfer girl while she is in Haiti. The first one is recognizing how much we have by seeing how little others have in the world. For me this was probably the most powerful point of the movie. We need to find that ‘attitude of gratitude’ every day. The people we typically compare ourselves to exist only in our mind (where we load them from TV, books and movies). We think we have so little but it’s easy to see that we have so much. It’s easy to believe that we can feel better about what we have if we compare ourselves to those in broken foreign lands but it’s pretty easy if we look at the real lives of others. Everyone has challenges even if they try to cover them all up. We see it all the time where the world is shocked by the news that Hollywood marriages are not what we thought they were. You are best equipped to handle the problems you have because you have the skills to do so. Work to develop that awakening that you have much and if you have much you need to really make the most of the gifts that you are given. This was the realization that our character in the movie came to as well. Her other ‘aha’ moment was when she used the power of surfing to help a little Haitian boy overcome his fear of the ocean. She saw the power of her passion. Surfing was more than competing. It was about surfing more than competing in surfing.
This newfound wisdom gave her the power to get back to her life. She could compete again but now it wasn’t so much about having to beat everyone else but it was more about being the best at what she could do. Of course, with this new attitude she would eventually go on to win which is still done by beating everyone else. She still had to lose first and that demonstrated her new ability to see the world differently. She had now found a way to passionately enjoy what she was doing and winning was only a part of it and if that part was missing there was still enjoyment.
What a great methodology! When we have setbacks in life, whether they be large or small or real or imaged, we follow a method to overcome. We find a way to get past our physical limitations. We recognize how much we have and commit to ourselves to make the most of the gifts that are given. We explore the power of the things we have a passion for, seeing them with new eyes. We follow our life’s passions in ways that give us true joy. I thought it was a powerful reminder of how we should be looking at life when we find ourselves looking at things in a less than perfect way. Thanks Soul Surfer.