I am not a fan of Tyler Perry’s comedies—television or film. I am, however, a huge fan of his drama movies. I believe he knocks it out the park with his depiction of life, human struggles, and love.

My two favorites are Diary of a Mad Black Woman and The Family That Preys.

The Family That Preys tells the story of two families, one white and the other black. The matriarchs of both, played by Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodard, are best friends. The movie reminds us that struggle, greed, destructive ambition, and bitterness transcends race, religion, culture, or our bank balances.

Charlotte, the character played by Kathy Bates, gets a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and decides she will spend the rest of her “good” days on her terms. She begs Alice, played by Alfre Woodard, to take a girls trip with her, but does not explain the significance of the trip.

They hit the road and have loads of fun. Charlotte drags Alice (a devout Christian woman) to a dance hall where Alice sprinkles holy water on a man who asks her to dance. Alice convinces Charlotte to get baptized in a river on the roadside with others. They head home and back to their separate lives. Shortly thereafter, Charlotte passes on. The dialogue below (spoken by Alice) is from the final scene during which Charlotte’s funeral takes place.

“When Charlotte died, it brought a lot of tears, questions. I remember after my second child was born, she asked me, “Alice Evans,” as only she could say my name, “Are you living or are you existing?” I didn’t get what she was saying at the time, but this morning at the funeral, I could hear her voice asking me that same question again. “Are you living, or are you existing?”

It’s funny what your mind goes back to when you’re grieving. I told her after my girls were older, I would start having more fun. Then it was after my children went off to college. Then it was after I helped with my grand-baby. I would tell her, “My children need me.” But what I found out all these years of living is, no matter how much love and support you give your children, they are still human beings, and you are not their only influence. I have spent my entire life giving it away; I think I’m gonna keep the rest of it for me.” – Excerpt of closing dialogue from the movie, The Family That Preys.

Dear reader, in today’s post, I ask you the question, “Are you living or are you existing?”

Here are a few other versions of this same question borrowed from two different movies:

The Shawshank Redemption

In the prison movie The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Brooks (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman) sit out in the prison yard. A contemplative Andy opens up and tells how he did not kill his wife or her lover, but that bad luck landed on him and landed him in prison. He shares a dream of getting out of prison and making a new life down in Mexico somewhere on the pacific coast. He extends an invitation to Red, who attempts to bring Andy back to reality by telling him that his (Andy’s) is a “shitty pipe dream.” Red also admits that he would have a hard time living outside of the prison. He says, “I don’t think I can make it on the outside, Andy. I have been here most of my life. I am an institutional man now.”

Andy would not be dissuaded and says, “…(the pacific ocean) is down there, and I am in here. I guess it comes down to a simple choice really, get busy living or get busy dying.”

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

In the movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Burle Ives’s character is the dying patriarch who tells his alcoholic son, played by Paul Newman, “I’ve got the guts to die, question is, do you have the guts to live?” Cat on a Hot Tin Roof also stars Elizabeth Taylor. I can write an entire post based on the richness of this movie’s dialogue.

Friends, use any version you choose, but today, ask yourself the question. Please do not be complacent about your response if it is not an affirmative one. Probe and evaluate. Leave no issue un-examined in determining why it is you are not busy living. I am aware that we are all at different life stages and that young children, sick or aging relatives, or personal medical issues may pose legitimate restrictions. However, outside of that, we owe it to ourselves, and out of gratitude to a loving Father, to be busy enjoying the abundant life that He sent His son to give.

I refer to the scripture in John 10:10 as the scripture that made me stand at attention, spiritually. The verse reads, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Nine people in Boulder, Colorado, went out to the grocery store and did not make it back home to the lives they led. A police officer also lost his life while attempting to assist.

What is holding you back?

Are you like Red and have become so used to your “prison” that you cannot begin to imagine a different reality? Red referred to himself as an institutional man; are you also institutionalized?

The question is, who is holding the keys to your prison or what rules are holding you hostage inside the institution where you have taken up complacent residency?

The words in the last line of Alice’s dialogue (The Family That Preys) shared at the beginning of this post resonated with me from the first time I watched the movie. She says, “I have spent my entire life giving it away; I think I’m gonna keep the rest of it for me.”

What about you, reader?

Mr. Perry uses the words of the song “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack to close the movie and bring home his message. I, too, would like to leave them with you as you ponder the question; are you busy living, or are you busy dying?

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance… I hope you dance…

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance,
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’,
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’,
Don’t let some Hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin’ out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,
Tell me who wants to look back on their years
And wonder where those years have gone.)…

If you have not seen any of the movies referenced in today’s post, I truly recommend them all.

In the meantime, here’s to you dancing now and for the rest of your life!

Cheryl David shares inspirational articles through her Brown Bread for the Soul blogs on WordPress. Have something to share? Leave a comment on the blog site, or send an email to bbftsoul@gmail.com.




Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio.