I’m often asked the question, “How has Steve Weber changed as a result of portraying Forrest Gump for the past 14+ years?” The typical short answer has been, “I don’t think I’ve personally changed.” I’ve been able to see the world, meet millions of people that I would have never met, have sat and posed for over 3 million photographs, and had a heck-uv-a-lot-uv-fun … but I’ve always thought that I personally haven’t really changed.
I’ve worked hard at using my natural talents and interests while integrating them into my portrayal of the character. So there’s always been a lot of Steve in the Forrest that I portray.
But in the last 2 years, I’ve re-considered that question and my previous answer. I now believe that I’ve identified one very significant and specific example of how the character has changed me for the better. I am now a more gracious person.
Gracious comes from the Latin gratiosus meaning amiable. Today the term is defined as pleasantly kind, courteous, and expressive of goodwill or kindly feelings. Forrest Gump has taught me to be more gracious. Today I am more amiable, patient and kind.
So what does this mean? Was I formerly ungracious? unkind? or even arrogant? Let’s take a closer look.
Do you remember the scene when Forrest and Lt. Dan go back to Lt. Dan’s apartment with the 2 floozy girls?
Trivia: Do you remember their names? … See answer below
When the one girl tried to kiss Forrest, he pushed her away, causing mayhem and over-reactions by the ladies and Lt. Dan. Both ladies hurriedly exited the apartment while hurling insults at the men. For Lt. Dan the moment went from lust to bitter anger in an instant. Forrest, ever the gracious gentleman, apologizes to Lt. Dan by saying, “I’m sorry I ruined your New Year’s Eve party, Lt. Dan. She tastes like cigarettes.” Forrest took responsibility even when everyone else around him was behaving poorly. Forrest was gracious in his concern for the feelings of his friend and fellow human being.
For me, being gracious simply means being 100% responsible for my actions and interactions with all other human beings … whether they be friends, acquaintances or people I’m simply meeting for the first time. Is it easy? Most of the time. Am I perfect? Hardly, I have to constantly work at the 10% of the time when I’m reactively ungracious. Am I getting better at it? Yes.
I’ve learned to be more gracious as a result of asking myself, “What would Forrest do? How would Forrest respond to a situation?” Simply watching the movie and observing how Forrest acts towards other human beings is a great lesson for being gracious.
Graciousness showed up on my radar in a powerful way 2 years ago. I attended a weekend conference and was specifically challenged to consider the question, “How did I want others to see and perceive me?” Rather than make a long list of do this or improve that, we were specifically challenged to pick just 3 things. The 3 things needed to be global and not overly specific. They needed to be things that described a way of being as opposed to a specific singular action.
Here is how I re-created myself and defined those 3 things:
Who I am is the possibility of being creative, gracious and full of gumption.
From that day forward graciousness has been at the forefront of my thinking. I actively think and ask myself, “What is the gracious thing to do?” And in those moments that I’m not gracious, one of two things happens:
- I catch myself at the moment and make a correction in my actions (or interaction) instantaneously.
- I act ungraciously in a moment but don’t catch myself until the moment has passed. I then replay the moment in my mind and make the conscious decision to handle a future similar situation differently. I create a future gracious way to handle the next similar moment.
Yesterday was a perfect example of such an instance. It was early Sunday morning and I was seated in front of the Monterey Bubba Gump Shrimp cheering on the thousands of participants in the Big Sur Half Marathon. As they ran past me, many shouted out, “Run Forrest Run!” Others gave high-fives and some even stopped to take a photo. It was awesome. Because of the steady stream of runners, I was in a zone and highly focused on making eye contact and shouting out encouragement with as many of the runners as possible. After an hour or so, the streets started to get busier with pedestrians and other people cheering on the runners. I could feel some of them stopping and staring at me, but I continued focusing on what I perceived as my task at hand, the steady flow of runners. Deep down I had a bothersome feeling that I could be perceived as rude by the other pedestrians, but forefront in my mind was the thought that, “I’m here to cheer on the runners … I can’t stop and have a full conversation with other people at the expense of ignoring the runners!”
When I awoke this morning, I replayed that situation and realized there WAS a more gracious way to handle the situation. I should have simply acknowledged the presence of all the other folks around me that day, instantly apologized that I didn’t have the time to talk with them at that moment as I was busy cheering on the runners and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to cheer a single one. I then could have thanked them for stopping and invited them to stand and watch for as long as they wanted while I was busy doing what I needed to do.
That would have been much more gracious than the approach I took of ignoring them and having my subconscious brain say, “I’m too busy for this!”
How often in our daily lives do we feel too busy for common courtesy?
The lesson I learned again is that it is possible to be gracious in ALL situations. Sometimes I don’t handle it perfectly at the moment but I’m willing to try to get it right the next time.
Do others consider you a gracious person? Do you think being more Gump-like would make you more gracious?
Trivia Answer: Cunning Carla and Long-limbs Lenore
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Next Blog Date: November 18, 2010