It’s A Wonderful Life.

My oldest brother, Rob, knows more about movies than anyone I know.  When I was 19, he introduced me to “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and since that time it has become my favorite movie.  George Bailey, the central character, is a small town person who wants to be a major success in a big city.  Through a series of events, including World War II and his father’s death, George ends up staying in his hometown.  Then, when one catastrophic business mistake could result in George going to jail, he considers extreme measures to remedy the situation.  Thinking he is worth more dead than alive, George stands on a bridge ready to jump.  It is at this point in the movie where George is given the unique opportunity to visualize what life in his hometown would have been like had he never been born.

This summer, the Walker community grieved as Scott Shockley, class of 2012, passed away after a twenty-six month battle with cancer.  While all of us mourn a life cut short prematurely, there is no denying the positive impact Scott had on this community over the last fifteen years.  Like George, Scott had significant dreams, some of which will not be realized.  And, like George, Scott’s character, charisma, empathy, fire, perseverance, and faith touched each person who knew him.  Scott’s life is evidence that the answer to the age-old question, “Can one person make a difference?” is yes! His life changed those around him for the better – classmates, teammates, teachers, family, caregivers at Children’s Hospital, and other adults and children who were also battling cancer. Who could blame Scott, if, like George, he asked “Why me?”  But Scott did not live with regret; he lived with passion, grateful for each day.  His mantra was “Remember the past, plan for the future, but live for today; because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.”

In the midst of our grief, Scott’s example encourages us to enjoy each day, right where we are, and with those we have been blessed to know. Rather than aggressively complaining about our current phase of life (“I can’t wait until high school!” “I can’t wait until I drive.” “I can’t wait to get out of the house and go to college!”), Scott’s example compels us to slow down and treasure the present. Consider that Scott was offered numerous times to participate in “Make A Wish,” where he could have one of his major dreams realized.  Scott always declined the offer because he said that everything he dreamed about was right here in front of him – his family, his friends, his fishing pole.

As I joined many others in celebrating Scott’s life, I could not help but think of these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

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This entry was posted in Head of School, Schoolwide by Jack Hall. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jack Hall

Jack Hall is the Head of School at The Walker School in Marietta, Georgia. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre at Davidson College and holds a Master of Science in Athletic Administration from Georgia State University and a Master of Arts in Education Administration from Columbia University where he was also a Klingenstein Fellow at Columbia University.

6 thoughts on “It’s A Wonderful Life.

  1. Thanks Mr. Hall for such a thoughtful post! I am always amazed at how through tragedy we can find inspiration. Scott was a wonderful young man. I regret not taking the initiative to reach out to him and his family more during the time that Scott was struggling with his illness. I thought about them a lot, as I know much of the Walker community did. I would respectfully recall the Tim McGraw song lyric that says, “live like you were dying”, because Scott was right – tomorrow may never come. We are all certainly better for knowing him and his family. May the joy we knew with Scott in our lives help to offset the hurt and pain we feel without him.

  2. What a wonderful analogy for Scott’s life and legacy. While I do not have the honor of knowing Scott or his family, I was deeply affected by Scott’s bravery and spirit. Like George Bailey, Scott’s journey has affected an entire community. The Walker 5th grade Junior Girl Scout Troop chose lung cancer awareness as their Bronze Award Project after being moved by both Scott’s diagnosis and Robb Morris’s ongoing battle. Throughout the year they worked to raise money for the Lung Cancer Alliance, as well as to urge people to live healthy lifestyles and know the warning signs of lung cancer. The 3rd grade Brownie Troop made about 40 Easter baskets and delivered them to Children’s Healthcare at Scottish Rite, also in reaction to Scott’s care and treatment. I am sure his legacy will live on in countless similar ways.

    • Melissa – thank you very much for your reply. It has been inspiring to watch our community rally on behalf of Scott, Rob, and others, over the past two years. I am proud of Kiely and Maggie, and countless others who gave of their time, talent and resources in support of Children’s Healthcare, the Lung Cancer Alliance and other similar non-profits.

      Jack Hall

  3. Mr. Hall, thank you for this wonderful and thoughtful post.

    I, too, am a huge fan of George Bailey. And like George, Scott was so very kind. I was recently reminded by my son Malcolm what a great person Scott was.

    Once Malcolm had shyly approached Scott about a sports-related question that I couldn’t answer. Scott took a quick moment to acknowledge Malcolm and to chat with him. But that moment meant so much to my son. He’d said, “He was so nice to me!” Imagine, an upperclassman football player taking the time to make a little third-grader feel like one of the guys.

    Later, on the last day of school for Scott, May 2012, he asked Malcolm to take a photo of him and his friends. Scott trusted Malcolm with his cell phone. He leaned on his crutches and the shoulders of two friends to pose for the photo. Scott was showing my son that we are here to support one another, even with the smallest gestures, even during the briefest encounters, and through the most difficult times.

    • Thank you so much, Angie, for sharing both of those stories about Malcolm’s interactions with Scott. I bet he won’t forget either of those experiences. Scott’s influence will continue to be present in Malcolm’s life, and someday, when Malcolm is a senior interacting with a Lower School student, he will remember to treat that younger student just like Scott treated him.

      Jack Hall

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