So last night Marilyn and I celebrated our 15th anniversary by going out for dinner and then seeing Cinderella Man afterwards. The movie was excellent (acting, storyline, cinematography - every inch of it was first rate); set in the midst of the Great Depression, we get to watch the true story of an over-the-hill boxer try to keep his family from starving.
While I don't want to give too much away, there were a few things that really struck me as I watched it.
First, Jim Braddock was a man of character, the likes of which we seldom see these days. The scene where he makes his son return a stolen salami - when the family is starving - is heart wrenching: "We do not steal, ever! Do you understand me?". Watching him get up before dawn day after day to go try and find employment on the docks (even with a broken wrist) is a tribute to his work ethic. He never whines, complains, or gives up, even when he loses everything. He is a proud man who simply refuses to quit.
And at the same time, he is never too proud to do whatever it takes to provide for his family, even if it costs him his own pride and dignity. He is willing to fight hurt, to live in a shack, to take work wherever he can find it. He is willing to be humiliated by going on public assistance and at one point even asks a room full of wealthy businessmen who used to bet on him "back in the day" to put money in his hat so he can get his kids back. He is a humble man who knows when the debt is beyond him.
One of the most amazing scenes in the movie: the winds of change are beginning to stir and we see Braddock standing in the welfare line, the night after miraculously winning a big fight. Why is he there? To pay back everything the governement had given him! Simply unreal.
As I watched this movie, I could not help but think, "They don't make 'em like this anymore. The America that produced this kind of man is gone today." We live in a different world now, one where people feel entitled - where we are too lazy and selfish to do things the old fashioned way (hard work rather than easy credit), but where we are also too proud and self-confident to ever admit that we can't do it on our own (that we even have a problem, that we need someone to bail us out).
Anyone else see gospel parallels here? We are the antithesis of Jim Braddock. I dare you to watch the movie and tell me otherwise.
Now listen, I'm not naive - I have no idea whether Jim Braddock was a Christian or not; I'm certainly not suggesting that the America of the 30's was a "more Christian nation" than the America we live in today. I am simply saying that Braddock's life illustrates many of the values we find in Scripture (faithful diligence combined with humility in the face of need), and I find it interesting that such character is so alien in our modern society.
Back then, those who lacked his character still acknowledged it in him; today we despise it in others, especially when such convictions are based on faith in Christ. Today, our society says that character based on Christian values and convictions is wrong, it's dangerous.
In times like these, it seems like we could use a few more Cinderella Men...