Sunday, November 29, 2009

From the Archives: George Bailey Award

Something Wonderful

Remember George? He's the hero in It's a Wonderful Life. His life has gone awry and he decides to end it all by jumping off a bridge. Clarence, his guardian angel, dives in to save him and then tries to convince George that he has contributed something valuable to the world. As the angel relates his good deeds, George begins to see that his life has made a difference.

When our kids were still at home we had a Christmas tradition we called the George Bailey Award. Together we decided on someone who had made a big difference in our life during the year. There were always several nominations before we decided on the recipient. Each of us wrote a personal letter to the person, which we delivered along with a copy of the movie. Throughout the year we would comment on how so-and-so should get the award; it helped us recognize and appreciate the great people around us.

One of many people I could give a George Bailey Award to is LaMont Hunt. He was my Sunday School teacher when I was 14. We were an obnoxious, rowdy class, and we enjoyed the reputation of running our teachers out. I think Brother Hunt was our 4th teacher that year.

He came to class the first Sunday fully prepared with a lesson about Jesus. Paper airplanes and spit wads flew past his head as he tried to create a spiritual atmosphere. There was whispering in the front of the room, and shoving and snickering in the back.

Boys tipped back on their folding chairs, and girls reapplied turquoise eye shadow—none of us showed any respect or courtesy towards our new teacher. Halfway through his lesson, he stopped, and tried to get our attention, pleading with us to settle down. And then he started to cry!

It was horrible. He left for a minute and went to get the Sunday School superintendent, who came in and lectured us, and then they both walked out. I remember that much vividly, but I don't remember anything else, except that I could never look at Mr. Hunt again, and I felt ashamed to have been part of something so ugly.

Fast forward to Salzburg, 1969. If you've read any of my courtship posts, you know that I was in love and receiving daily letters from my parents at home, objecting to my romance. (In defense of my parents, they had known me when I was 14, and they weren't quite over it.) I was on a roller coaster of feeling exhilarated or devastated, depending on whether the mail had arrived yet. I was desperate for support and understanding from home but I was getting scoldings.

One Saturday the owner of the Steinlechner Hotel where we lived knocked on my door and said I had a phone call. When I answered, a voice said, "Marty, this is LaMont Hunt. We're here in Salzburg for the day, and we want to come by and say hello." I couldn't believe it.

A few minutes later he and his wife and son pulled up outside. When he got out of the car I flew into his arms and burst out crying. I was so thrilled to see someone from my real world. He was kind and friendly as I introduced them all to Dee. We talked about their trip, and our semester, they asked what our plans were, and congratulated us and we took pictures all around.

The day the Hunts came to visit me.

They went home, called my parents, and reported good things about Dee and me. There began to be a thaw in the icy reception I had received from my folks. Mr. Hunt said we were doing OK, and Mom and Dad started to trust my judgment a little bit more. He didn't seem to remember our former relationship at all. He was a friend from my neighborhood who loved me and wanted the best for me. (Now, there's a lesson about Jesus, no Sunday School classroom needed.)

Is there someone you would give a George Bailey Award to? If so, tell us who and why on your blog, or in my comment section, or write them a letter and thank them personally. If you're posting it here, don't write about anybody that you know reads my blog. This is an exercise in thinking of someone outside your immediate circle who has influenced your life for good. Maybe a guardian angel?

George, you're wonderful!

(It's fun to see the comments you wrote when I first posted this in April, 2007.)


kenju said...

I am sure there are many, but the one I remember best is a teacher I had in the 11th grade. I went to school one morning after a particularly difficult break-up with my boyfriend of 2 years. In mrs. faircloth's class, I broke into loud sobs (I just couldn't hold it back anymore). She took me outside and asked what was wrong, and without being judgmental at all, she talked to me about self-worth and other things, and eventually I felt better. I will be forever grateful for the fact that she didn't just send me to the office and let the principal deal with it. His nickname was "Bullfrog" and I doubt seriously that he would have been as compassionate as Mrs. Faircloth was.

Bridget said...

Wow, that's a great story. I had a similar experience. I had a YW leader that we were disrespectful to. Turned out that 9 years later at a major family gathering (held at the JSMB that my dad organized- you'll have to ask him about that) I saw her. We were related. I was so embarrassed to see her again.

BTW, since you are a blogging pro, the next time you see my dad could you give him some help? Apparently he hasn't been able to post comments on my site. Thanks! Glad he has such great friends in you and Dee.

Stie said...

We love your George Bailey Award idea so much that your son has stolen it. Last year, we bought a stack of DVDs of "It's a Wonderful Life" and began the tradition in our own family. I am going to think on this one in terms of who my GBA should go to...loved your post. It was so beautiful - made me tear up.

mama jo said...

what a fantastic idea...i love it...and i love the story, as i remember lamont...cheryl was my friend...speaking of cheryl...suzi and i used to dress up in their clothes and tell her we were twins...we were so dumb...she forgave us gba award goes to my freind kathy you know her...i will say that she is always helping others...she is involved with helping refugees from africa, getting them settled in life in the usa, she is taking many classes, she is always making some craft, and she cooks! for me, anyone who makes dinner is a saint...but, she invites my kids, me, and whomever is around up for dinner all the time...i know she does many other great things for others...i just don't know them all...she is a great friend to everyone that know her.

Gramafolly said...

I'll give the award to Kathy too..she came a gave me a pedicure last summer!!! I'll have to write a blog about all my George Bailey's, there are too many for the comment box

Annie said...

I have to pipe up about a different kind of George Bailey moment, when I realized I was married to a truly great person. One year my husband Greg was in a crisis at work--very similar to GB's--where a crucial error had been made with huge consequences for the whole vast company and Greg was being erroneously blamed for it. He was wrung out, every day, and in a terror about what it meant for our family's well being, the company, his much was weighing on his mind. And yet. Every night he came home and managed to be loving and open with the kids and me; he never transferred his frustration to us. I can't watch the movie without tearing up about that time in our lives and Greg's loving strength in still embracing us whole-heartedly. p.s. it all worked out in the end.

MissKris said...

My nominee would be my beloved Aunt Gin. Actually, she was my Dear Hubby's aunt but she and I became closer on many levels than I was to my own mother. I have never met a more selfless, giving, loving person in my life. Even tho she married later in life and never had children of her own, she was the head of the Juniors dept. in Sunday School for over 30 years. A lot of her SS kids in her own class came from underprivileged neighborhoods and she'd often have them over on Saturday afternoons for pizza and to help them with their SS lessons. She and her husband sponsored - anonymously - countless kids thru the years who couldn't afford to go to Summer Youth Camp. She'd take pies and cakes to shut-ins, send out notes and cards to anyone who crossed her mind. She's been gone for almost 15 years now and there isn't a day goes by that I don't think about her. She was one of the most wonderful examples of Christian love ever lived before me.


This is wonderful - idea, tradition and post. My aunt Koki, my dad's sister, immediately comes to mind. She was a very caring and loving woman and during a time when the relationship between me and mother was fragile she was there for me - as a friend and my connection with my Dad's family. I miss her.


I never did learn how to link back to my blog. Sorry.

Michelle said...

It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie and has been since I was 14. I LOVE your idea of giving a George Bailey award. I'm going to start that tradition this year!

Mrs. Organic said...

What a great idea. I think we'll start this tradition with our family. We absolutely love this movie.

Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...

You are wonderful. I so enjoy your blog--it's so thoughtful and, well... lovely. Yes to writing journals and keeping memories. I'm reading a book right now by Barbara Kingsolver (my favorite author) called Lacuna--you'd enjoy it, I think. It's told through the main character's journal entries (almost like The Color Purple, in a way) and it's reminding me daily how important it is to journal. Keep up the good work.

~Heather :)

diane said...

I love this idea. Thanks for sharing.

Kay Dennison said...

I've had so many people who have been there for me through my life and hard times, I couldn't begin to single out any one -- all got me through the various tough times.

I'm wondering who's going to get me through the current mess.

the wrath of khandrea said...

about a year ago, i tracked down my high school biology teacher. he was amazing. i told him all the things i remembered from his class, which are many, and thanked him for his phenomenal sense of humor.
needless to say, he was dumbfounded. he used to give "awards" to his students (cheap jewelry award for the girl who wore the most braided string bracelets, top banana award for the highest grade... i won the "kicked out of class" award for most often being... you guessed it... kicked out of class)

the guy was fabulous. and my recent correspondance with him was amazing as two adults, rather than one over-worked teacher and a snot-mouthed high schooler.

the wrath of khandrea said...

and ps
sorry to be such a wet blanket here, but i loathe that movie. it's long, drawn-out, and frankly i want to push george off the bridge myself. i realize i am in the minority here, but it's how i feel.

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Sco said...

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Amy and I need to get back in the habit of handing out the George Bailey aware, especially now that our kids are older and could participate more in the selection. We love the idea!

Gary Hunt said...

Dear Marty, Thanks for the kind words about my dad and the wonderful postcard! I hope all is well. Dad had a wonderful funeral and we gave him a great send-off. Sherrie(wallin) spoke in the small branch at a youth correctional facility where i serve as branch president before she and her husband left on their mission to Fiji(?). Sounds like we all eventually grew up. Love, your brother, Gary Hunt