Sean and his wife, Leigh Anne, have received growing attention because of The Blind Side, first a bestselling book and then an Oscar-nominated movie. The book and the movie are based on their outreach to and subsequent adoption of Michael Oher, now a pro-football player with the Baltimore Ravens. The Touhys are also co-authors of In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving.
Give us a recap of your story as it relates to becoming a cheerful and generous giver.
Second Corinthians 9:7 says, "For God loves a cheerful giver." We should all give, whether we do it cheerfully or not. But if we give in a cheerful manner, the recipient recognizes it and it goes so much further. Even more importantly, the person who's giving it, if it's given in a cheerful manner, tends to do it more and it has a bigger effect. All we did was offer Michael hope and opportunity, and he did the rest. And people seemed to think that was important, and they made a movie out of it.
In your book, you talk about how your dad had the soul of generosity. How has that influenced you?
There's not a better example of cheerful giving than my dad. He was a high school teacher and coach at a small private school in New Orleans. Teachers have the greatest opportunity to be either cheerful givers or not. When you're teaching in a giving manner, it has such an impact on people. I like to tell people that we had an impact on one kid. My dad probably had an impact on thousands. Who really was the better giver? It's not even a comparison, because teachers certainly don't do it for the money. They do it for the love and the value of giving. And my dad was a prime example. And so I woke up every morning and saw an example of where giving was easy.
Who influenced you besides your dad?
Max Hart was one of my best friends growing up—shouldn't have been because he was a grade ahead of me and we were competitors in every sport. Truth is, I was a better athlete than he was, so I was continually replacing him in whatever sport we participated in. But when I was 15, my dad had a stroke. Max stepped in and filled in a lot of the gaps. When I wrote about him in our book, he was surprised because he didn't even know that's what he was doing. That is truly giving when you're doing it because that's what's in your heart, not because it's part of your agenda. He was a great friend.
How have you helped your kids become cheerful and generous givers?
Our kids watch everything we do. So we try to set good examples. Heaven knows we have our flaws, and that was part of the reason for writing the book. We wanted to make sure people didn't look at the movie and go, "Well, sure, these people can change lives because they got a movie and Sandra Bullock and all that kind of stuff." That couldn't be further from the truth, because we're just like the person who lives next door. So we talk with our kids about it and try to make sure they see the joy in it. You can't make people be cheerful givers. That's something that has to come from their hearts. But you can certainly show them what it does in your life.
Michael's adoption was driven by our kids. They were the ones that pushed the whole process along. So they were actually good examples for us. Sean Jr. came to us and said, "Why is he sleeping on the couch when I have a room he can have?" Collins was an AP honor student and she dropped down many of her classes during her last year to be in Michael's classes so that we were fully on top of all the academics that were required, because he was so far behind.