Last night I had a lot of cooking to do for a dinner party and kept myself company watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on YouTube. This truly is a Christmas classic and I got all choked up at the end when the town turned out to help George Bailey. I was flooded with strong memories of a Christmas in 1997 when our family faced a similar situation. I’ll let my son Stephen tell the story:
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had close friendships with many of my teachers and college professors growing up. I’m generally the class wise guy and this has always guaranteed a lot of time conversing with the teacher, either in welcomed humorous banter or being kept after class for being disruptive while continuing an intellectual conversation on topics discussed in the class.
Of all of these teachers the one that first comes to mind is my sixth grade English teacher, Mrs. Bloom.
Mrs. Bloom recognized early on that I had a lot of creative energy to burn, and she encouraged this at every turn. She focused me on my written work and indulged my interest in humorous skits and videos for my class projects. I think she saw in me a kindred spirit of wild enthusiasm, something she brought every day to class with her own outsized personality and a sweet caring nature that she extended to all of her students. These two sides of her personality came out in full force the week before Christmas in 1997.
Earlier in the month, my family’s storage locker in the basement of our apartment building had been broken into. My parents, having to deal with two surprise-ruining children, had taken to storing all of the Christmas gifts in this locker to keep my sister and me from peeking at them. The thieves had crudely pried open the locker and made off with everything.
My family was devastated; we resigned ourselves to what would likely be a very low-key Christmas.
Somehow Mrs. Bloom found out what had happened. Being anything but a low-key personality, she was not the type of person to stand for anyone settling for less than the best.
I remember entering my sixth grade class the morning before the Christmas break without the sense that anything might happen that day. The sting of the theft was still something everyone in my family felt, a kind of weird shame that hung over us despite it being nothing we could have prevented.
I was greeted with the sight of my entire class clustered around Mrs. Bloom’s infamous treadmill. Having so much excess energy, Mrs. Bloom had the treadmill off in the corner near her desk and would take to running on it during lunch (or class, generally for humorous effect).
Today, the treadmill was piled high with wrapped gifts and surrounded by the smiling faces of my classmates.
Mrs. Bloom then explained how in the past week she had called and spoken with the parents and students of my class and in an act of kindness that has so far gone unmatched in my lifetime had organized all of them into this big act of charity for my family.
In a time of crisis, she had gone above and beyond her textbook role as an educator and brought together a small community of people to do good. This event has always stuck with me, and the lessons of kindness taught here have influenced my life ever since.
Do you have a “It’s a Wonderful Life” story of your own to share?
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