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.
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?