The movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” literally came to life in my living room last weekend.
God worked a Christmas miracle through a cluster of my friends, who emptied their wallets to assist an Evergreen Park resident named, Angie Hernandez.
If you haven’t seen this 1946 classic, or you’re finding the details a little fuzzy, no worries.
I’m fresh off a Redbox rental, I’m your guide for a preview in review.
In the movie, the character, George Bailey is a man who’s given up his dreams in order to help others and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence. The angel shows George all the lives he’s touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born. In the end, the community of Bedford Falls rally to help him out of a major financial predicament. Money is flying everywhere to help the man.
In this present day version, Hernandez is our Mr. Bailey, but don’t be alarmed, she wasn’t contemplating suicide. However, like Mr. Bailey, she’s desperately discouraged and experiencing a financial hardship that warrants supernatural intervention.
She said, “I’m depressed. I just can’t seem to win. I have faith in the Lord, but my human side takes over my faith sometimes, and I feel fear.”
In the movie, Clarence’s involvement is precipitated by the prayers of people petitioning God on George’s behalf. Clarence, who hasn’t yet earned his wings, is chosen because of his simple faith. Likewise, a multitude of people have been praying for Hernandez, and apparently, God gave Clarence a respite and employed me. Look at my column photo. I don’t look like a pudgy old man like Clarence. But you know what they say about the Lord and mysterious ways…
But, I wasn’t being a very good angel. I felt a nudging to help but honestly, the severity of her financial problems exceed the level of assistance I can offer. But, I remained hopeful that a little help would be better than none and settled on an idea to throw a party.
Invitations went to married couples only and read, “How would you like to make a meal and a memory together? Don and Claudia will host their 1st Potluck Christmas. In lieu of a Christmas gift exchange we’re asking each household to donate $25 to this family.”
There was a warm reception of those invited. One person commented, “What a great idea. Looking forward to your Christmas party.”
Even people who couldn’t make it were excited. Another person said, “I’ll be in Tampa, but I’ll drop something in the mail for this family. Thanks for reminding us to celebrate in a way that highlights what this season is REALLY about.”
Before the party even started we’d collected $385 in monetary donations, a $40 grocery store gift card and a turkey, all from people who couldn’t attend.
Their generosity began infecting my household like a virus.
This was a good thing.
We came up with an idea to have a live auction during the party. My seven year old daughter , Donae really wanted to help. She volunteered to auction several unopened gifts she received for her birthday this September.
“Are you sure?” I said, concerned she might regret it afterwards.
“Mom! Yes.” She replied, excitedly
Not wanting to be outshined by our daughter, Don threw in three pair of brand new shoes and a few miscellaneous things bringing our total items to be auctioned to 16. Bids for each item were set at $1. After all, guests had already agreed to donate $25 to a complete stranger, we figured offering them valuable items at rock-bottom prices would be our way of saying thanks.
Things went far differently than expected.
It turned into a bidding frenzy. The first item up for bid was a travel sized tube of Colgate and miniature Barbie toothbrush. That thing sold for $10. From that point forward, my living room sounded like a trading floor on Wall Street. Don got wrapped up in it and jumped in a bid himself. I yelled at him saying, “Babe. Are you nuts? Stop the bid. It’s already ours.”
Thank goodness he lost to another bidder. But, there was still a little marital discord. He got so wrapped up in the hoopla, he pulled our poster-sized family collage off the wall and proceeded to evoke a bidding war. “What are you doing!? Put that back!” I demanded
“I’m not auctioning our picture. I’m auctioning the collage you made. You’re going to create one just like this for their family.” He replied.
Okay, this is where my party pleasantries went by the wayside for a second. Because I said, “You can’t auction my labor? No no no no no!” But, it was too late. Bid closed at $16. I got pimped out. Who does that? But, I let him off the hook. We made a memorable fun night, with a great cause.
We raised $1,129. We delivered it to her Sunday, which unbeknownst to us, happened to be her birthday. She was shocked into complete silence upon opening the envelope of cash and checks. Her face streamed with tears.
“Thank you. Thank you.” She whispered softly, followed by briefly leaving the room to collect herself. Angie is one that isn’t accustomed to asking for help but always willing to give it.
At the end of, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the miracle came after Mary, -- George Bailey’s wife -- went through town telling people he was in trouble. Their hearts began pouring out love to help him, just in time for Christmas. The angel named Clarence wrote George a small note in the conclusion that read, “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”
The kicker at the end of the movie is when George’s daughter, Zuza, says “Every time a bell rings, and angel gets his wings.’’ I have a long way to go to earn mine.
While my friends and I were able to provide some relief, I’m afraid it still isn’t enough. I encouraged her to set up a GoFundMe account, here’s the information if you’d like to get involved. http://www.gofundme.com/iexlhk.