The way he treats us all the time is the way we wish we treated each other half the time.
So says Ed Harris in his portrayal of Coach Harold Jones in the film Radio.
By now, most people have seen Radio, starring Harris and Cuba Gooding, Jr. Still, it’s worth mentioning again as we look toward the new year and all we hope to accomplish.
Many might be tempted to say that this film is about Radio, a mentally challenged young man played by Gooding. Others could believe it is a film about football at the high school level. Or, perhaps, it’s about a man and his relationship with his daughter. It’s not just about these things; it is about all of these things. It is a film about the human spirit, about humankind, and Radio and the T.L. Hanna High School football team are merely accessories to this theme.
For playing a title character, Gooding has surprisingly few lines. However, he manages to portray the complex emotions and thoughts of Radio through his mannerisms and expressions without the aid of many words. Radio is innocent, naïve, trusting, kind and generous beyond belief. He walks through the many trials of his life without harboring anger or pain that many of the rest of us cannot imagine living our lives without.
Harris plays Coach Jones superbly. He is a man struggling with choices he made early on in his life, and is trying to redeem himself through his relationship with Radio. He brings Radio into the high school atmosphere by allowing him to help out with the football season. When the season ends, Coach Jones continues to include Radio in high school by having him enrolled as an eleventh grader and putting him on the sidelines of the basketball court.
It is a very uplifting movie to watch. To learn that it is based on a true story is even more uplifting. How wonderful would it be if we could learn from one another what these people learned from Radio? What would life be like if we treated one another without prejudice, without judgment, without hatred? Can any of us actually imagine a world like that?
That is the world Radio lives in. After being so inspired by his sideline enthusiasm, the entire town donates gifts to his mother for him at Christmas because she can’t afford any herself. He doesn’t keep them; the next day, he walks from house to house, leaving a gift on each doorstep. Looking at the houses he approaches, one knows that these people may not have had any Christmas otherwise. Are there any among us who would do that?
One could say, “Oh, they donated those gifts because they pitied him.” Maybe, but, it is doubtful. How can anyone pity someone so full of life and love? Being mentally challenged or physically disabled does not mean being closed off from the rest of the world. This film is not even about sharing the world happily with those different from us. It is simply about the purest form of human nature.
It is about love. It is about forgiveness. It is about waking up and greeting each new day with vigor. The Bible says that God created man in His image. Something tells me that Radio is closer to what He had in mind than what any of us might consider “normal.”
It will be New Year’ s Eve
soon. Perhaps, before that clock strikes midnight and rings in the fourth year of this new millennium, we should all wipe the slate clean. Forgive the person who wronged you. Reach out to those who strike you as lonely. Share a smile. The small things make a big difference.