Faith speaker exposes the 'blind side' of human interaction

Collins Tuohy, center, with Jim Whiteman, principal of Westside Christian Academy, and Maria Netgen, one of WCA's eighth-grade students who was inspired when Tuohy spoke at the school's "Never Lose Faith" event on Oct. 18.

Collins Tuohy, sister of the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive tackle, Michael Oher, spoke to students at Westside Christian Academy on Oct. 18 and to almost 300 people in the evening at Westlake High School for the Family Strong Series, “Never Lose Faith.”

Her family’s story was included in Michael Lewis’ 2006 book and was the basis for Academy Award-winning 2009 movie, "The Blind Side." Lewis started to write a financial piece to examine why the left tackle is the second highest paid player on a football team after the quarterback. He protects the quarterback’s ‘blind side’ and prevents possibly a career-ending injury.

Collins, 26, made it clear that everyone has a “blind side” which prevents them from truly seeing the people and to value them inappropriately. It can be the people we work with, those we encounter when doing errands, or pass by every day.

She recounted how she is often approached in an attempt to reach her brother. Only ten years earlier, it would have been easy. His commute to Briarcrest Christian School, a private school similar to Westside Christian Academy, included walking on one of the busiest streets in Memphis, Tenn., used by as many as 50,000 people daily.

“You could have talked to him as long as you wanted,” said Collins.

Michael is one of 13 children. He had been in 22 foster homes and was labeled a “runner” by the state. Collins said it is estimated he was probably six to eight months away from becoming a gang bodyguard, a career that usually ends in death within 18-24 months.

When they were 15, Collins found him eating lunch alone and without any friends at school where he attended on scholarship. He was bullied by other students because of the clothes he wore. Her parents set the example of living out what the Bible taught, including applying “love your neighbor as yourself” to include “if you see someone bullied, become their friend.”

Today, Collins and Michael are the closest of friends as well as siblings who talk almost every day. Collins said neither of them uses the word “adoptive.” People who knew them individually at the University of Mississippi thought they were twins by the way they talked about each other. Until they see the two of them in the same room, as some of Collins sorority sisters learned when part of the football team came to help her and her roommate move.

She challenged the audience by identifying the one thing she wanted people to take away: “When you leave here, stop and turn around to someone you have placed inappropriate value on and get to know them. Then you will have [the fun you experience giving presents on] Christmas every day.”

Earlier in the day, Collins visited Westside Christian Academy and spoke with the student body.

“Her message of valuing others just as God does was, perhaps, the main take-away for the afternoon with our children. Our kids and faculty loved her,” commented Principal Jim Whiteman.

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Volume 5, Issue 22, Posted 10:13 AM, 10.29.2013