There is a handful of movies that no matter where I am in life they just inspire me. And I learn something new from them every time I watch them. I think of movies I’ve written about before like Dead Poet’s Society, A River Runs Through It, Big Fish. In addition, I would also put Chariots of Fire and Finding Forrester in that category. There are so many more, but the latest reminder on that list is the movie, October Sky. Watch the quick trailer below to get the overview but when I first watched the movie in theater was 1999 and I took the inspiration like anyone one; a young individual trying to go after their dreams. In this case it is Homer, the main character, and he has the aspiration to be a rocket scientist while growing up in a coal mining community. Oil and vinegar, right?
So what does one learn now?
I focused on the breakdown and re-engagement of the father. The father-son relationship struggle is the most powerful theme that resonates with me more than ever now because I am a father. I don’t have a son but I have two daughters and and I still take away the lessons of needing good communication for a healthy family relationship.
I took the time to do some quick research and found that roughly 25 million children grow up without a father in the United States alone. Thank God men are leading the way to combat this statistic. There are people I admire like Donald Miller who started up a group to help kids without fathers called The Mentoring Project. There also amazing organizations like All Pro Dad that exist to encourage dads.
The week after I graduated from high school, I embarked on a Colorado hiking trip with a group of friends and a few of our dads. I remember asking my dad months before if he could join us. He was then General Manager of a big company and with it came a the weight of incredible stress. I knew it would be highly unlikely for him to join but I still hoped he would. When he told me a week or so later that he was was in, I was ecstatic. The experience was unforgettable and we talk about it till this day. Father’s Day took place during our week long hike which made it even more special. We brought home scars, lost some toenails, even lost some pounds, but ultimately brought home life long memories.
A few months later my father lost his job. During that trip I learned his boss had a issue with not being able to reach him. This was before cell phones could get decent reach and apparently it was too much for his boss. Dad never let me know much about those pressures but it happened. He lost his job. There was good in it, though. It served as a catalyst to push him back into the career he loved, banking. He served small businesses and remained committed to rebuilding communities in St. Louis until retiring a few years ago.
But he still took me on that adventure. He understood the risk and most importantly, he was there.
In October Sky, the final scene brings tears to my eyes every time. The main character, Homer is prepared to launch his final rocket as a thank you to those who helped him. As Homer spoke to the crowd that assembled, he thanked his friends, his math teacher, his mother, etc. But last Homer dedicated it to his father who throughout his passion of launching rockets was never there. But this time he was. His father was there. Alas, his father engaged and the rocket took off. The scene ends with the father’s arm embracing his son as they watched the rocket soar into the sky.
For my father and I, our rocket took off. We went hiking and looked up together and saw beautiful mountains. God’s country.
You may not have a father in your life. I can understand that the pain may be deep. But you have the opportunity to build upon it and be the parent you’re meant to be. If you don’t want to be a parent you can still help those who need one.
We can do it together and start by being there.