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The Ultimate Gift
We all know them.

Rich kids who were raised with everything, and thus appreciate nothing.

Or people who spend their lives consumed with their own pleasure, and thus fail at the most fundamental aspects of life. And miss out on the true joy of living!

The other night my family and I watched the movie "The Ultimate Gift", and I highly recommend it (with some caveats I'll offer at the end). The basic story is this:

A really rich billionaire dies, but his whole family is a bunch of degenerates. So how does he leave his estate? He gives a bit here and a bit there, but to a grandson he gives 12 challenges, with the promise that if he successfully completes them, something will be waiting for him at the end (though that something isn't specified at the beginning).

And the challenges are situations that the grandfather sets up to teach him about the meaning of life. He sends him to a cattle ranch to do manual labour. He empties his trust fund and bank account, rendering him completely broke, so he finds out who his true friends are (hint: they all desert him, so he's left alone). He's asked to give money away to find the joy of giving. And it goes on and on. And in the process he becomes a different person as he learns lessons in life he should have already known.

I really enjoyed it, though I guess it is predictable. It's based on a book written by James Stovall, who is blind. What an amazing thing, to write such a great book without the benefit of eyesight! And the book has a Christian publisher, so it's a great message.

You'll recognize some of the actors, too. James Garner plays the grandfather. Abigail Breslin, who was in Little Miss Sunshine (which I did not like), stars in it. It's well done.

As for family friendliness, there is one scene where he's kidnapped in Ecuador (it's a long story), and it actually gets quite violent. I think you can still watch it with kids, but just skip over that part. As for language, I'm sorry but I'm not the best judge. We let our kids watch movies with bad language in it if it's only occasional now, so I'm not always on the lookout. I know there are no F-words (I would have noticed that), but I can't promise about the S-word. My gut is that it's not there, but I don't want to promise.

There is some talk of extramarital affairs, and at one point it's implied that a woman wants to sleep with the main character, but if you were a kid I really think that part would go over your head. So I don't think it's bad from that point of view at all.

It's an older movie now (out in 2007), but we just saw it recently and really enjoyed it. But here's what it made me think:

Do we as parents encourage these gifts in our kids? Do we give them the gift of money, the gift of hard work, the gift of gratitude, the gift of true friends, the gift of giving? Or do we just try to make their lives easy? Hard work is its own reward, and often the happiest people on earth are those who go home at the end of the day smelling to high heaven (as Morgan Freeman says in Bruce Almighty). But do we make our kids work hard? Do they help you clean out the garage? Can they weed a flower bed? Can they clean a toilet? Obviously you should wait until they're five or six to start some of these things, but keep it in mind. Hard work is good for you; video games are not.

And what about money? Have you taught your kids to handle money? We started our children on allowance at 4. After that, they had to pay for their own chocolate bars and trinkets. Think about it.

Why not watch this movie together, and then use it to start talking about what's really important in life? We did, and it was really a gift!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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