Tuesday, July 8, 2014

5 Life Lessons from Forrest Gump

The movie, Forrest Gump, is celebrating its 20th birthday this month!  That’s twenty years of horribly mimicking his Alabama accent and mockingly yelling, “RUN, FORREST, RUN!” any time we saw anybody running.  (Anybody else? Just me? I'm mean.) 

I decided to watch the movie (for the first time) in celebration of its anniversary and fell in love with it (for the first time.)  I know, I'm the worst - but I should mention that I have watched it in pieces, but I was young, it was long, I'm tired, etc.  I did have the soundtrack though and it's still a favorite album.  Plus, that Tom Hanks is a really great actor, huh?  He's going places!

While the obvious lesson we’re expected to take away from the movie is what his mama, Sally Fields, always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get,” there were also quite a few nuggets of wisdom buried in that very long movie. (Have I mentioned that it was long?  Cause it was long.) 

1.  Follow your instincts.  When the clouds parted and the rain stopped falling in Vietnam, Forrest looked up for a brief moment of peace before the turmoil began and his life was changed forever.  He followed Lt. Dan’s orders, as well as the advice of Jenny, and ran.  He ran so fast that he beat everyone out of the danger zone and knew that he had to go back and find Bubba.  While finding Bubba, he made it his mission to save everyone, including a very angry Lt. Dan.  He put his own life in danger to save everyone else, because that was what his instincts told him to do.   Despite Jenny advising Forrest not to be brave, he did just the opposite and saved several lives and received a congressional medal of honor.   In the end, Bubba couldn’t be saved, but Forrest still picked him up and carried him through the burning jungle so he could die in peace with his best friend by his side.  Forrest proved that the easiest and safest choice isn’t always the right choice.  Sometimes, we should follow our own personal instincts over the advice of others… or the choice that seems smartest. 

2.  Best friends ain’t something you can find just around the corner.  Bubba was Forrest’s best good friend.  They were going to go into the shrimping business together.  They loved and respected each other a whole lot.  And Forrest was one hundred percent correct when he said, “best friends ain’t something you can find just around the corner.”  Best friends, truly great friends, are few and far between.  And when you’ve got one, you should do whatever you can to hold on to that friendship.  That may mean running through gunshots and fire to save them or starting a shrimping business in their name.  Damn, Forrest set the “best friend” bar pretty damn high!  I hope my friends are content with watching their animals and sometimes buying them a drink while at bars.

3.  Don’t play the victim.  This one is a little less obvious than the others, but I found it to be a reoccurring theme throughout the movie.  This may be unpopular opinion, but I hate Jenny.  She didn’t deserve Forrest!  And I know that she was his first friend and she stood up for him and legitimately cared about him, but she used her miserable life as an excuse to cast Forrest aside and treat him cruelly.  Her childhood was awful, and I feel bad for her about that, but I don’t think that’s an excuse to treat Forrest the way she did.  It taught me that when we play the victim, we close doors on people that care about us.  We hide behind our failed lives instead of actively doing anything to make them better and when anyone bothers to try, we get frustrated and sweep them under the rug and scream, “I can’t be saved!” despite sort of, kind of actually needing help.

4.  Persistence pays off.  Forrest was out of the hospital, but still injured in the butt-ocks when he took up ping-pong because other people were playing it in the recreational room.  Forrest spent HOURS playing it so he could get better at it.  He even slept with the paddle! He may not have been great at it immediately, but eventually he was so good that he was asked to join the Army’s ping-pong team.  He also wasn’t very good at shrimping at first, but then he built a pretty successful business!  And, of course, he ultimately got Jenny in the end.  He showed her that he loved her throughout her whole life… and it worked out in his favor. (Even if I feel  Well, if you ignore her tragic ending and stuff.  Basically, if you work really hard at something, even if you’re bad at it, you’ll eventually get good at it.  Persistence is the key!   

5.  Do more for other people. Since he was a child, Forrest put other people’s needs before him.  It certainly paid off because throughout his life, he remained consistently lucky.  He always helped Jenny, he started a business in memory of his friend and left it in the hands of Lt. Dan – a man who he saved despite strong resistance, he left the business when his mom got sick, he gave a lot of the money to Bubba’s family despite never having met them, he mowed lawns for free – and he always did these things with a smile on his face.  Even while being yelled at by a Black Panther, he apologized for ruining the party by beating Jenny’s boyfriend up for hitting her.  (That might have been my favorite part.)  He was a good human being who genuinely cared for other people and was always happy to help.  

I guess what I'm saying is... we could all benefit from finding a little Forrest Gump in our ugly, ugly hearts.  And that's all I have to say about that. 

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