Each Christmas season I watch Jimmy Stewart’s 1946 movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” If you’re not familiar with this enduring film, Jimmy Stewart plays young, small-town Savings & Loan operator George Bailey, who chooses generosity and integrity over money.
When the town banker/ shark, Mr. Potter purloins Bailey’s Savings & Loan deposits, Bailey faces foreclosure, bankruptcy and the humiliation of betraying the people’s trust. (Boy, times have changed. Today he’d just fly a Lear jet to Washington for a bailout!)
On a freezing night, as George Bailey stands on a bridge contemplating suicide, an old man jumps in the water and Bailey has to save him. Unknown to Bailey, the old man is an angel trying to earn his wings. He had jumped in the water to “save” Bailey. As they talk, Bailey expresses that things are so bad he wishes he’d never been born. The angel grants him this wish and they proceed on a journey through the evening, in a world where George Bailey’s impact had never been felt because he had never been born. Needless to say, the world and the town were very different — and not for the better.
This was brought to mind Sunday as I attended a memorial service for Gloria Joe. Gloria lost her battle with cancer on Nov. 20. Anyone who knew Gloria will attest to her boundless energy and enthusiasm for teaching science to middle school students.
All middle school teachers deserve a medal. Anyone teaching middle school science deserves a medal and recommendation for sainthood. Anyone voluntarily teaching middle school science for 20-plus years who still approaches every single day with gusto, creativity and a love for her students, deserves all of the above with elevation to sainthood! So it was with Gloria. Person after person spoke of Gloria’s impact on their lives; of her kindness; of her thoughtfulness; of her sense of humor; of her indomitable spirit.
As I scanned the room, I was amazed at the number of friends and acquaintances in attendance, many of whom I had not seen in years. Some I knew apart from Gloria, others I knew through Gloria.
It made me think of the “tapestry” of people who are affected by one individual; about the network of people that each of us touch with our lives. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could all have that “George Bailey” moment where we are allowed a glimpse of our impact? Imagine Payson High School if we could convince each of our students of the power and influence they can have. Imagine if each parent and each staff member realized how powerful their words can be; how powerful believing in someone can be. Imagine!
Holidays are a time for families and friends to come together.
As you gather to celebrate this holiday season, I hope you will take time to tell your loved ones, especially your children, why you love them. Tell them how they have impacted your life. Talk of their dreams and your hopes for them. Talk of your belief in their ability to be successful. Thank them for the gift they have been to you. We often wait until it is too late to express our gratitude.
Last Friday night, a box of old books fell off the shelf in our garage. Following orders, I ambled out to stick them back in the box. Several books curiously fell in a stack. On the top was a book called Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. Its cover was old and tattered. I opened the front cover and read these words:
Roy — Thank you for the privilege of being your cooperating teacher! It was really neat to share with you the excitement of teaching as well as the nitty-gritty of its disappointments! I’m so proud of you — you express the very best of what I see a caring, academically sound teacher should be! It’s so great to see God’s call to you in this way.
I pray you will continue to give your very best — in scholarship and love — to all your future students — as unto the Lord!
What deathless power lies in the hands of such a person. Have a wonderful Christmas!