Northstar Presents At The Movies –  McFarland USA

Introduction:

McFarland USA is a feel good movie, much like Remember the Titans, and the Rookie. It’s one of those inspirational sports stories where the underdog overcomes adversity to reach their potential. The movie is about a bunch of kids who pick crops, go to school and can run really really fast. I can’t put myself in their shoes. I have never worked in the fields, run cross country or lived in Southern California. But these kids are not defined by those things either. People are people are people. It doesn’t really matter where you come from, what you do or what you believe, we all have generally the same basic needs and the same basic desires out of life. Most people try to do right and help their children go further and do better than they ever did. And all people need someone to believe in them. We all need someone to push us and trust us and tell us that we can do it. Parents tell their kids that every day. But in McFarland, that’s not what the world tells them.

Something To Talk About:

Track coach Jim White is a newcomer to a predominantly Latino high-school in California’s Central Valley. Coach White and his new students find that they have much to learn about one another, but things begin to change when White realizes the boys’ exceptional running ability. More than just physical prowess drives the teens to succeed; their strong family ties, incredible work ethic and commitment to their team all play a factor in forging these novice runners into champions. Like the track team, we need three things in order to be successful God’s way. Those three things are:   

  1. Because everyone needs someone to do life with: The moment you began your relationship with Jesus Christ, you also began a relationship with other Christians. You are part of God’s family, and in God’s family there are no orphans. God did not intend for His children to live as individual islands of faith, but rather as a community of believers, interrelated with each other and part of something much bigger than themselves. We all need someone with whom we can share our lives, thoughts, feelings, and frustrations. When we have people we can do life with, we have other believers who will walk beside you in your journey as a follower of Jesus. You will get support in times of crisis or major changes from people who really care for you. Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
  2. Everyone needs someone to invest in: In our last series, we talked about embracing a servant mentality. To invest in the life of others, we must have the mentality that Paul wrote about in Philippians 2:3: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”  We must embrace a servant philosophy. The Bible says, “Consider others as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). We need to invest in the life of others. Often the investment we make in others can make an eternal difference. We can invest in people through empathy. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The world is filled with hurting people, and people who truly care are few and far between. If we want to invest in people, we must learn to empathize, and it must be genuine. Another way to invest in people is through being an example. People are watching us. The truth is sometimes we may fail. But how we handle failure can still be an example. There are other ways, but what is important is making an investment in the life of others.
  3. Everyone needs someone to stay for: Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” We all need to be needed by someone that we can make a difference in. In the movie, McFarland USA, the coach has a powerful reason to stay – his track and field team. We should ask ourselves a tough, yet necessary question: If our lifestyle were the only lifestyle that society could depend on to observe God’s unconditional love, would they be compelled to pursue a relationship with Him? If those who see our conduct, hear our conversation, and witness our character on a daily basis were placed on the witness stand to verify our commitment to the person and principles of the One we claim to serve, would there be enough evidence to convict us? Would we go the extra mile, do the big and little things that were so needed that we would feel compelled to stay?

Questions:

  1. What needs are you aware of, right now, in the lives of others? What can you do to meet those needs right now? 
  2. Why is it important to have someone to do life with? To invest in? To have someone to stay for?
  3. In the movie, Coach White worked as a picker for a day?  Have you ever spent a day in someone else’s shoes so you could understand them? Why is this beneficial?
  4. By taking the time to get to know these students, Coach White moved past his first impression in order to see something previously unseen, namely their heart. How can we achieve the same results in our lives?
  5. Where would you like to change or develop practices (ways of seeing, thinking, or behaving) that you learned as a result of this movie?

Take One Thing Home with You:

Coach White is forced to move his entire family to McFarland because this is the only place that will hire him. When the White family saw the town, they were apprehensive, even a little fearful. Everything was so different. They didn’t see the future. and the present made them want to move before they unpacked.

As the movie continues, Coach White takes a lot of time getting to know his students. He becomes acquainted with the schedule of their lives, how their families work, and what life is like for migrant farmers. Coach White works in the field with his students and shares meals with their families. By walking, talking and working with them, Coach White sees something he hadn’t seen before. I guess you could say his eyes were opened—so much so that he was now able to see their heart, their character, their willingness to do whatever it takes for their families.

I believe this is how we all ought to live as followers of Jesus. We are called to focus on the heart. When we take the time to push past our first impressions, to go deeper, we are able to focus our eyes on the heart, we can see things we never thought we would see. My hope is that after watching this movie, we would take the time to push past first impressions in order to see that people matter to God and they matter to us.