The Butler: How A Little Gumption Can Change the World

It can also land you some seriously awesome candy…

dreams come true

Have you see Lee Daniels’ The Butler? If not, I highly recommend it. While many movies quickly blur into the background of our busy lives, The Butler is one I doubt I’ll forget. Multiple film websites describe it as “the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades…from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family.” I would’ve described it differently. What struck me most about the mostly true story wasn’t the impact history-in-the-making had on one man and his kin, but the impact one person can have on the world.

From childhood on, the main character Cecil Gaines (played by Forest Whitaker) makes bold decisions to better his life and his family’s. Over time, these decisions, paired with his primo integrity and work ethic, have a positive impact on countless others—including numerous presidents. He meanwhile raises two sons who contribute to the world in very different, important ways.

I don’t want to spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it, so instead I’m going to talk about one of its central themes (IMO): GUMPTION. 

After seeing The Butler, I thought back to the first time I recall demonstrating gumption. I was five or six years old and really wanted some candy. (I never said it was noble! LOL) It was the middle of a hot, sticky summer in Minnesota and I knew that “Old Man Charlie” who lived at the end of our street had lots of sweets; I’d seen him nibbling from a candy dish on his porch many times. So that day, I walked straight up to his door and rang his bell. When he appeared, I politely asked for a piece. He barely said a word. In fact, I think he just mumbled and shook his head, shooing me off with his hand.

Not fair! Okay, maybe it was. But now I wanted candy even more. After a few frustrated moments, I had an idea.

Rather than seek alternate remedies for my sugar cravings, I rushed home and donned a Halloween costume. Suited up like Bozo-ette the clown, I marched back to Charlie’s door. When he opened it, I yelped, “Trick or treat!” He gave me a strange look, laughed and then handed me a full bag of candy.

That memory has always stuck with me—because it’s so darn goofy, I’ve figured. But perhaps there’s another reason. The experience taught me important lessons, which I’ve been applying somewhat routinely since: It never hurts to ask and taking initiative eventually pays off. If we persevere, we just might gain far more than we’d hoped for.

I’m sure that my heart pounded a bit as I walked up to Old Charlie’s door; he wasn’t exactly the warm and fuzzy type. I’m also fairly certain that the candy tasted better, knowing that I’d strategized and worked for it. In other words, fear shouldn’t hold us back, and hardship might make the rewards sweeter.

The same applies to loftier pursuits. No matter what our age, gumption can change the world. I sincerely believe that. It’s what motivates me to work my behinder off in my creative and social pursuits and do everything I can to make Girl Boner land an empowering, ever-expanding place. I also believe that we’re given passion for a reason, and that it’s our responsibility as capable human beings to act on it. I know I’m far from alone in these compulsions habits and beliefs… And while they may seem fairly basic, I think we can all use the occasional reminder. I’m grateful to The Butler for that.

When did you demonstrate gusto as a kid? How about lately? Any plans to act on dreams in the future? Who’s the most gumptious (totally made that word up) person you know? I love hearing your thoughts. ♥

Leave a comment


  1. That is hilarious and full of gumption! There’s a word we don’t hear often enough…

  2. Back before we bought so much stuff online, I desperately wanted tickets to a certain concert, so I got up early to stand in line for hours. I had a horrible feeling they were going to sell out before my turn came. Two other places across town were selling tickets, too. I called one of them. The line was a lot shorter there. I raced across town, disobeying all speed limits, and got my tickets just in time. It was a lasting life lesson in what we can accomplish if we’re proactive. (And the concert was great!) Thanks for the inspiring post.

  3. You know, you haven’t changed much in the creative ways you approach your goals. I think it’s terrific. You are such a wonderful out of the box thinker. Looking back on my childhood I can’t really think of a time I had to work that hard to get what I want. I guess it must have just been second nature. Even when I wanted cool new clothes in Jr High and I knew my mom didn’t have the money (single parent)…I just found babysitting jobs.

    • So sweet of you to say, Kitt. Sounds like resourcefulness is one of your mega strong suits! I love it. Why wait around or complain when we can take action, right??

  4. You can always go an extra mile to achieve something or you can set off your mind to fetch that extra thought that may do the job even better! Perseverance in persuasiveness is a key in selling your thought! Decline my request for a single candy, I’ll find a way to grab your entire bag!! Like your “gumptious” attitude there!! My younger one has been shown some lately! At four he has trained himself to outsmart both of us!!

  5. Can’t wait to see it! Glad the movie is living up to its hype!

  6. BloggersTech

     /  August 22, 2013
  7. Love this story, August! Thanks for sharing. It reminded me of the time I asked one of my aunts, who always seemed to go farther than the rest of her family, how she managed to accomplish so much in so many varied ways. Her reply has always stuck with me. She said, “It’s just guts. I try it. If it works, great. If not, I try something else!” Gumption she had in abundance! (Oh, and I liked “The Butler,” too!)

  8. I’ve not seen the movie but must look out for it. And what a cool story of yours! Gumption’s essential to life, always. If we don’t have it and display it, we fold at the first hurdle – or just don’t get anywhere.

  9. Kate is

     /  August 25, 2013

    I’m the most gumptous person I know. Me me me. 🙂
    Love that word. It’s my favourite of the day. The most gumptionist thing I have done is testify against my father. I have to remind myself some times that I’m a very brave person.
    I very much want to see the movie. I hope it will be released here soon.

  10. A knock out, once again, August! I love movies that stay with you and make you think, and can’t wait to see this one. I’m also more flattered than I can say to have my #MileyCyrus #Disney post included with yours in Jenny Hansen’s Cow Bell post today! Between you and Kristen Lamb and the others, I feel deeply grateful to be in great company today! We ROCK! (O;

  11. Reblogged this on Moon Says What? and commented:
    I see a lot of potential character development in this blog. Definitely worth a read. And, I will have to watch The Butler now.

  12. Kourtney Heintz

     /  September 16, 2013

    I think committing to being an author takes gumption. That’s the most gumptious thing I’ve done lately. As a kid, it was my avid commitment to being green when I grew up. Not environmentally responsible but to become my favorite thing in the world, the color green. 🙂

  1. 13 Wicked Awesome Links ~ From Thoughty to Naughty | Jenny Hansen's Blog
  2. I’m Back… And I’m Bringing ‘Doctor Sleep’ With Me | The Write Transition

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: