Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks, is running in the movie.
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
I recently watched the Forrest Gump movie once again on a flight from California to Washington State, where I live. I've watched this movie a few times over the years.
We can learn a lot from Forrest Gump’s story.
Many of Gump’s peers and even adults thought he was stupid, socially awkward, and would not amount to much.
In the movie, Gump was an easy target for bullies until he learned to run away from the bullies of his life. Gump’s good child friend would say, ‘Run Forrest, Run”, when the bullies came calling to beat the snot out of him.
In the running, Forrest Gump saw hope.
Gump’s story invoked my memories of childhood bullying and how running significantly broke the bully syndrome in my own life.
I talk about how I overcame the challenges of being bullied positively and how running played a massive role in my healing in an article I wrote called “ The Old Man Shuffle.”
The key message in the post is to get better, not bitter, when adversity hits you between the eyes in life. There are always positive and negative ways to handle adversity in life. Choose life-giving solutions that bring hope.
Back to the Forrest Gump story.
The Real Hero Of Forrest Gump’s Story
The true hero in the story in the movie Forrest Gump is his single mom, played by Sally Fields, brilliantly.
As mentioned above, because Forrest does not fit society's norms, especially socially, he was labeled as abnormal in less than positive ways by his classmates and adults almost daily as he interacted with others.
However, Forrest’s mom tells him repeatedly when he is young that he can succeed despite what people say and the constant bullying he receives. She actively interceded in his life to help him believe in himself.
Gump's mother's words of encouragement are something he never forgets, even after she passed.
Forrest’s mom became a hero behind the scenes, a world-class encourager and coach who sees Forrest's God-given potential.
Gump's mom became one of the greatest coaches in the world with her constant encouragement and overcoming attitude for one simple reason.
In a word, Forrest's mom believed in him.
If you’ve ever had someone believe in and intervene for you in positive, life-giving ways—parents, coaches, teachers, religious leaders, or others you know firsthand the incredible impact it had in your life.
Forrest’s mom believed sincerely in him and his God-given potential. She was a mama bear who refused to let others tear her son down.
Even though Forrest was different, he developed and used his unique gifts with excellent results.
Gump became an All-American in football because of the speed he developed running away from the bullies, and he eventually became a millionaire because of his work ethic combined with a niche he developed when every competitor’s shrimp boat was destroyed in a storm.
We Can All Use A Mama Bear Figure Like Forrest Gump’s In Real Life
We all need a mama bear, papa bear, coach bear, or teacher bear at some point in our journey. The bear analogy may seem corny on the surface, but it represents the level of intervention we sometimes need.
Sometimes, it takes a strong advocate to get things done. As a coach, you can intervene and act as a strong advocate for others as much as anyone. It goes with the territory of being a thoughtful coach. I've always thought of coaching as being a life coach, as much or more than a running coach.
Regardless of their title, a strong advocate in your corner who sincerely believes in you is sometimes the only thing needed to overcome life's hostile critics and bullies.
A coach, teacher, parent, good friend, or a combination of all of these people have the potential to speak deeply into our lives.
Why exactly Was Forrest Gump’s Mom such a great coach?
From an early age, Forrest never saw himself as disadvantaged because his mom accentuated his strengths, not his perceived weaknesses, as society labeled him.
We need that same attitude in the coaching profession. Accentuating strengths, while a person is young while gently correcting weaknesses is how champions of life are formed.
Gump's mom went against those who would pick on her son and taught him to overcome adversity time after time. She stuck with Gump through thick and thin over and over again. Gump’s mom had the patience of Job with him, but she would also fiercely defend him when someone would try to put her boy down.
Forrest's mom consistently encouraged and praised him for what he could do, not what he couldn't do.
We, as coaches or educators, need to do the same.
See The Persons Heart, Not Just How They Are Different
I’ve known incredible young people with the greatest hearts ever. However, because of their ADD, ADHD, physical disability, or some other difference as simple as being shorter or taller than average, they had a tough time fitting in with their peer group.
I've intentionally sought these kids out on the school grounds where I've coached to find ways to help them reach their God-given potential.
Real-Life Forrest Gump Type Of Mom
In my coaching journey, role models like Michael Phelps's mom have helped me see and opened my eyes to the importance of active intervention in these kids' lives. They have inspired me to look at what's possible in life.
Michael Phelps is the most decorated athlete in Olympic History, with 28 medals in swimming. His story has inspired young and old alike.
Phelps's ADHD turned into an incredible asset to others in this world. Like Forrest Gump, Phelps's mom saw his strengths and chose not to focus on his perceived weakness. She advocated for her son fiercely.
Can it be that Phelps was given ADHD for the greater good?
Michael Phelps's Mom intervened for him through thick and thin, as Forrest Gump’s mom did in the movie. His mom is pretty amazing and a hero behind his story.
The world should be glad Michael Phelps did not fit "the norms of society."I know I am. Phelps is among the most inspirational athletes ever, inspiring thousands, if not millions, of people, including me. His ADHD was turned into an asset for a lot of people in this world because of the active intervention of many committed people led by his mom.
Michael Phelps had a real-life Forrest Gump type of mama bear who would advocate for him and not let the system fail him. She would not take no for an answer when her boy needed help. Her boy's heart was more important than his label.
Please read the story about Michael Phelps in more detail than I can discuss in this short post sometime. He is the most decorated Olympic Gold Medal winner ever, and how he overcame his challenges with ADHD is truly inspiring.
Each Person Is Beautiful In Their Way
No one is free from emotional pain when misunderstood, bullied, or made fun of. The pain is real and strikes at the core of the human soul. No young person deserves to be mocked and bullied in any capacity. No one.
The story of Forrest Gump and the true story I've mentioned in this post remind us that God gave each person different gifts and abilities through their unique DNA. Those gifts may look different and come in individual packages, but our creator made each of us uniquely for an expressed purpose.
Regardless of what a person looks like, sounds like, or what they can contribute to society, every person should be treated with dignity and respect. Every person on this planet has inherited worth from their creator with a purpose in life.
It's up to the greater human community to help young people find and develop their gifts in the world and then help them develop their God-given potential no matter what they look like, sound like, or label the medical profession gives them.
No one is disposable. Love others well.
The next time you are tempted to lose patience or give up on someone who does not fit the norm in our society, intervene for them in positive, life-giving ways and find ways to love them instead with all your heart and soul.
I will do the same.
Forrest Gump with his mom encouraging him.
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures
How would Michael Phelps's life have changed if his mom had not intervened?
Are labels like ADD and ADHD assets and not liabilities? Answer: They are assets.
How can we turn a person's challenge into greatness?
Phelps is the most successful Olympian, with 28 Olympic medals.
Image Credit: Michael Phelps. (2023, November 6). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Phelps