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Paper Angel: A Holiday Lesson on Bullying

By Carolyn Woodruff, JD, CPA, CVA

My husband Dwight prides himself on liking sappy Christmas movies, and he rents a lot of them. Ho-hum, I thought, but I was pleasantly surprised by the many social messages in Paper Angel.  The movie starts with Mom (Lynn Brandt) moving far away from Dad with her two children—Sara and Thomas. Sara is younger than Thomas. While the movie doesn’t illustrate domestic violence, Mom has a black eye, and you know what happened.  Dad loves nothing but his beer and his sports on television, and while Dad is oblivious to everyone and everything that his narcissistic soul in not entrenched in, Mom quietly gets the two children in the car and escapes with them without any of their belongings.  Mom was right to leave.

Mom, Thomas, and Sara take up residence in the “No Name City”, where life is meager and hard. Mom worked at a diner, and her boss was not very thoughtful.  The living digs were adequate, and the basketball goal in the driveway was makeshift from a bucket.  Thomas practiced basketball a lot, and he was quite good, which starts the bullying by the high school “King” of basketball.  I wonder if most bullies are afraid of something because the bully seemed afraid of losing his position as the star basketball player, and the prettiest girl in the high school just ignored him.

Bully started posting about Thomas on Facebook–about his clothes and his Mother’s poor car and his impoverished condition.  The posts were awful and inhumane.  The beautiful girl showed the posts to Thomas and he was taken back for a bit.  So how do you fight back?  Thomas posted that his locker would be open and available to accept goods for needy families for a donation.  He met the Facebook criticisms of Bully like a hero and celebrity.  The response by the other students was overwhelming with so many goods collected for needy families that Thomas was interviewed by the television station and became the high school celebrity.  So handling the Bully was doing something good for the world, but this was only stage one of handling the Basketball Bully.

Mom struggled, and there was no money for Christmas gifts for Sara and Thomas.  She had each of them put a wish list on a Salvation Army Paper Angel for an Angel tree.  Thomas reluctantly turned in his Paper Angel list.  Thomas’ angel was taken off a tree at the mall when a couple expecting twins picked Thomas’ angel.  The male in the couple owned an advertising company and was having some big business problems;  to get out of himself, he volunteered to coach basketball.  Coach got all of Thomas’ gifts, but Coach didn’t get the gifts to the Salvation Army in time because his wife went into premature labor.

Mom (Lynn Brandt) went to the Salvation Army to retrieve the angel gifts for her children, but there were no gifts for Thomas. Disappointed, she left.

Coach, after the safety of his new family was taken care of, had an OMG moment and ran to the Salvation Army with Thomas’ presents. “ It was simply too late,” said the worker.  “Give me the address and I’ll deliver the presents?”, said Coach.  “No.”  Well, he was persistent and got the address and delivered the presents.  Whew!  That was a close call.

There were four presents on the Paper Angel list. A camera, an iPod, red tennis shoes, and a ball jersey.  Quite the list!  Thomas gave his mother the camera and his sister the iPod.  His father, who had made an attempt to make amends with Thomas’s mother and showed some remorse, got the ball jersey.

Now, who do you think the red basketball shoes were for?  The bully of course.  What a fitting way to kill a Bully with kindness.  And Thomas, he asked for no gift for himself.

The End.