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Angel donors put in their share

Last month, Anne Gentry (my daughter) wrote an article, “Couldn’t we all use a Clarence?”, telling the story of the angel named Clarence from the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

Clarence helps George Bailey discover how his life has touched so many and to never forget the influence that one life has on so many.

Yes, Anne, we could all use a Clarence — and a Dudley.

Dudley, played by Cary Grant, is an angel from the movie “The Bishop’s Wife” who comes in answer to a prayer from Bishop Henry Brougham. Bishop Henry is trying to build a grand cathedral and has lost sight of his wife, family, friends and his values as he has to deal with a stubborn, wealthy widow donor.

The bishop challenges Dudley to his being an angel and really being on Earth and Dudley responds, “You see, we’re everywhere, helping people who deserve to be … to be helped. As you’re walking through the city, you may look into a strange face. It may be the face of a criminal or it may be the face of an angel.”

United Way of Northeast Michigan has had the privilege of administering Christmas Wish List (CWL) now in its 43rd year. With the help of Cathy Abraham, retired director of CWL, school success workers in Alpena Public Schools (including Alternative Choices for Educational Success Academy), Alpena Community College, Hillman Community Schools, Posen Consolidated School District, Atlanta Community Schools, and Alcona Community Schools identified 141 families and 346 children in need of clothing, shoes, boots, food, and household items.

More than 300 generous angel donors were matched with children’s gift requests, and those angel donors provided gifts and financial donations to meet the needs of the 346 children.

Mrs. Hamilton, the wealthy, stubborn widow in “The Bishop’s Wife” who wants to control the building of the cathedral, is visited by Dudley, acting as the bishop’s assistant. Dudley helps change Mrs. Hamilton’s monument and cathedral building honoring her departed husband to feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and finding shelter for the homeless.

She puts the bishop in charge of directing her funds, assuring that they are used to help people who deserve … to be helped. That helps the bishop realize the most important thing in his life is not building a cathedral but honoring and securing the love of his wife, family, and friends, and serving those in need..

As Dudley is about to depart from Bishop Henry, he tells Bishop Henry, “Your prayer has been answered.”

Henry responds, “I was praying for a cathedral!”

To which Dudley replies, “No Henry. You were praying for guidance. That has been given to you.”

We were praying for guidance as we took over responsibility for Christmas Wish List.

Dudley has been at work in our community.

Our generous Christmas List donors give anonymously, with no recognition except knowing they are positively affecting the lives of 141 families and 346 children.

No buildings were built, but human lives have been touched.

Our experience administering the Christmas Wish List has overwhelmed us emotionally as we admire and respect the benevolence and love on display by everyone associated with Christmas Wish List.

In the final scene from “The Bishop’s Wife”, Bishop Henry is delivering his Christmas Eve sermon (rewritten by Dudley) and he reminds his parishioners it is Jesus’s birth being celebrated and it is his stocking hanging empty on the mantle, and he says, “Let us ask ourselves what he would wish for most, and then let each put in his share. Loving kindness, warm hearts … and a stretched-out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on Earth.”

Our angel donors have put in their share.

Joe Gentry is executive director of the United Way of Northeast Michigan.

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