We Bought a Zoo and 20 seconds of insane courage


Benjamin Mee offers romance advice to his 14-year-old son, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”  What he seems to be talking about here is a leap of faith.

Benjamin is struggling in his relationship with his son, Dylan. Benjamin, Dylan, and 7-year-old Rosie are grieving the loss of wife and mother. Benjamin is stuck in the fourth stage of grief, depression and loneliness. Dylan is still dealing with anger. Whatever else changes in their lives the life they knew with Katherine is over. In what had to be 20 seconds of insane impulse, recently widowed father Benjamin Mee buys a zoo hoping to provide a new start for his two children.

Conventional wisdom says that big decisions like selling a house, quitting a lucrative job, moving the family, or investing in a high risk business shouldn’t be made in the midst of emotional upheaval. Yet it is a traumatic, life-changing event that pushes Mee into a life-changing decision. This is often the case. Most of us don’t embrace change when we’re comfortable and happy. We may try to improve and enhance the status-quo but we aren’t out to blow it up. Often change and risk comes out of dissatisfaction rather than contentment.

Benjamin experienced this moment that called for a leap of faith and he leapt. What happens next is not happily ever after either. The results of impulse are messy. The amount of work and expense is mind-boggling,  the  Mees don’t suddenly stop grieving because there are monkeys.

The picture of grief in We Bought a Zoo is heart-wrenchingly real without being maudlin. Matt Damon gave a genuine performance. The raw emotions and authentic relationships were believable and really drew me in. I was surprised by some of the negative comments. I think to enjoy this movie it’s necessary to check the cynicism at the door. Real people actually do act this way and feel this way. Most of us  lack the embarrassing bravery that makes this story so compelling. I’m glad Cameron Crowe was brave enough to tell it. And, as in all Cameron Crowe movies, the soundtrack was spot on.

Something about this movie inspired me to be open to big change, to hold loosely to the status quo, to stop trying to plan and control. God does not often send a bolt of lightning with an agenda attached. Many times  decisions have to be made under less than perfect conditions.  Sometimes the feeling that a particular direction is right is quite strong but not particularly logical. Those are the moments that take a leap of faith. Those are the moments I sometimes miss because I’m busy talking sense to myself. If the Holy Spirit nudges me toward one of those 20-seconds of courage opportunities, I want to have the guts to buy the zoo.


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