Tag Archives: compassion

‘This is Us’ mailman stars in heartwarming anti-bullying film about miracle dog

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Bill Chott plays an unlikeable character who finds redemption in Marshall’s Miracle.

Fans of the Bill Chott’s mailman on This is Us hope he’ll back on the show in the future. But those who can’t wait for that to happen can check him out in the heartwarming but lesser-known movie Marshall’s Miracle.

After getting to know Bill a little through a previous post and subsequent interview, I wanted to see more of him, so my 10-year-old son and I rented this sweet family movie. (It’s available on Demand and on Amazon.)

Inspired by a true story, Marshall’s Miracle shares the adventure of Finn, a 13-year-old boy who has become the target of bullies at his new school. Finn feels hopeless and lonely until he discovers the injured Marshall being held by a dog-hoarder in deplorable conditions and makes it his mission to rescue him. In the end, Marshall leads everyone to a place of change, forgiveness, and friendship,

The uplifting movie teaches important lessons about bullying and animal cruelty, and it’s great for families and kids. (The worst word in it is “darn.”) Some might find it a little schmaltzy, but I’m a sucker for sentimental and sappy, so I loved it.

Chott captured the hearts of America with his brief but deeply affecting scene on This is Us as the mailman who holds back tears when he learns his friend William had died. Since the episode aired a week ago, he’s been overwhelmed by the response and deep affection millions had for his character. Fans have started a campaign to bring him back to the show.

Marshall's Miracle

“You going to be OK?” Chott’s Gary asks in this touching scene from Marshall’s Miracle.

In the movie, Chott plays a totally different character, gruff and grumpy, stuck in bad situation as his wife keeps bringing home dogs they can’t properly care for. But he shows the same tenderness This is Us fans fell in love with when he worries about the injured dog, Marshall, then defies his wife and lets Marshall go.

“I enjoyed the chance to get a bit gruff and play Gary,” Chott said. “I’m usually the nice guy, and he is a mostly unlikeable guy with a moment of redemption. It’s also my only role with a beard. I grew it to look a bit less like a baby-face and a bit more rough around the edges. I kept the beard for a year, so Gary stuck around with me a while after the role ended.”

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Lauren Holly and Bill Chott face reality in Marshall’s Miracle.

Lauren Holly, perhaps best known for Picket Fences, NCIS and Dumb and Dumber, plays his wife.

“That was a really unique opportunity,” Chott said. “She doesn’t often play that kind of character either, so we both had a chance to stretch a bit.”

The disturbing topic of animal abuse is well-handled, and how Finn and others respond to Marshall reinforce the movie’s theme: Don’t give in to bullying. Be strong, be courageous, and be kind.

That message resonated with Chott.

“I grew up being bullied from time to time, since my family moved a lot,” he said. ” I was always the new kid. I like the way Finn’s story echoes Marshall’s story. They’re both victims of bullying and they’re both able to overcome that adversity.”

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The real Marshall

Chott filmed near his hometown of St. Louis, and he joined the real-life Marshall and his owner, Cynthia Willenbrock, who wrote the book “Marshall the Miracle Dog,”  at a Special Olympics event. In real-life, the three-legged Marshall and Cynthia have visited more than 1,200 schools, nursing homes, and children’s hospitals to share his story of courage and the will to overcome. He also encourages people to see beyond a person’s disability to what they are capable of accomplishing.

“Marshall immediately inspires empathy because he wears the scars of his former abuse and neglect on the outside,” Willenbrock told me. “When Marshall so lovingly hops right up to every stranger, he has this way of busting open those internal wounds in all of us. Without words, Marshall lets us know we are all enough, exactly as we are.”

Willenbrock is pleased the book and movie helped spread the anti-bullying message, and she partnered with 4-H to make the Marshall Mentor Program available to schools. You can learn more about Marshall’s impact in this video.

“I’ve been fortunate to never see an animal who was abused,” Chott said. “I have a real soft spot for pets, especially dogs. My wife, Sam, and I lost our dog Wally shortly before we found out we were expecting our daughter Isabella. A puppy is in our future, I’m sure.”
Those who love dogs, love Bill and want to see a wholesome film with an important message, should definitely give it a try. It encourages perseverance and standing up for what you believe in.“Sometimes life seems pretty hard,” Finn says in a speech. “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens.”

That’s a message we should all remember.

Watch for Bill’s next guest appearance March 28 on Trial and Error, and read more about him here:

Why the mailman on This is Us brought me to tears

Everyone’s favorite mailman Bill Chott tells us about the man behind the This is Us scene that broke America’s heart 

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Why the mailman on ‘This is Us’ brought me to tears

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I’m sure a lot of people cried through the last few episodes of “This is Us.” (Don’t read any further if you’re not caught up.)

Like millions of us, I’m obsessed with this show, although it destroys me week after week. I was still recovering from the beautifully painful goodbye between William and Randall two weeks ago, and then last night was a whole new torture. Watching the family grieve evoked such familiar emotions and memories and brought fresh pain from long-ago losses right to the surface.

But the part that hit me the hardest wasn’t Kate breaking down, or watching Randall and his mom talk about how much time he lost with William, or even seeing the cracks in Jack and Rebecca’s marriage knowing more tragedy is ahead.

It was the mailman.

In a brief but poignant scene, a mailman – played with such tenderness by  Bill Chott – stopped in to deliver a package and asked Randall how William was doing because he hadn’t seen him and was worried. He teared up when he heard the news that William he had died. Randall didn’t realize the two had gotten to know each other, but learned they had met during William’s morning walks.

“People don’t stop just to talk anymore, you know,” the mailman said. “We became friends. He always asked about my daughter.”

I sobbed, alone on my couch, because my mom had a mailman like that. She was often home alone in the afternoons, sitting in her wheelchair watching life through the windows that lined the living room.

On one of my visits home, my mom started telling me about her friend, Glen, who had confided some secrets to her. Who’s that? I asked.

“You know Glenn,” she said. “Our mailman. We’re friends.”

He had been delivering mail in our Anchorage neighborhood for years. Everyone knew him. He’d wave and smile when he walked up to the drop letters in the box next to the front door. Turns out one day, he popped in to say hi to my mom, and they struck up a friendship. From then on, he’d just let himself into the house and deliver the mail directly to her. He must have been in a hurry to finish his route, but you’d never have known it. He stopped just to talk to her. They became friends.

Whenever I came to town, he knew everything that was going on with me, and what I’d been working on. He always asked about her daughters and son. He shared details of his life with her too. It made her happy when a card from me arrived, Glenn told me. He recognized my handwriting.

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, Glenn’s visits lasted longer. He noticed when she wasn’t home, worried when he hadn’t seen her.

She died on a Sunday. I saw Glenn coming up to the house on Monday and went outside to tell him the news. But he already knew. He said he had been to the hospital the day before but arrived just after she’d left us. He hugged me tightly, and told me through tears he wished he could have seen her once more.

I don’t know my postal carrier’s name. He or she stretches an arm from the mail truck to slide bills and ads and the occasional letter into the slot on our locked box on the street. My dad still gets Christmas cards from Glenn, sent from his new home in a warmer southern climate, where he moved with his husband.

But I have no idea who delivers them.

(If you liked this post, please consider sharing.) 

A toast to the moms and the motherless

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On the last Mother’s Day I spent with my mom, I gave her a keepsake box, with a Maya Angelou quote on top:

“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends, and living our lives.”

That box now sits on my dresser, holding some of my most precious mementos: photo of my kids, my mom’s charm bracelet, the hair clips my stepdaughter and I wore at my wedding.

On Mother’s Day 10 years ago, my husband gave me a jar of baby food. We had just learned that I was pregnant a few days earlier. Yesterday that little baby scored a couple runs at his baseball game and a touchdown at flag football. Today he gave me a handmade card:

“Thank you for being so supportive of me, caring for me, and giving me so many opportunities though my years so far. I know how hard it is to take care of a kid, so I just wanted to say thank you for everything you have done.”

That one’s going in the box.

And my beautiful stepdaughter is about to have a daughter herself. She was the first one to make me a mom when she came into my life 15 years ago, and soon she will make me a grandma.

That Maya Angelou quote is fitting for this holiday, which is wrapped in so many memories and emotions. On this day reserved for Moms – who, let’s face it – will still be doing laundry or changing diapers, packing lunches and checking homework – we all have reasons to celebrate, and reasons to mourn.

Many of my friends are without their moms today too, some for the first time. And there are the heartbroken moms who have lost their children and women who long for babies of their own.

This Mother’s Day, I had brunch with my husband and son. They toasted me and gave me flowers, and I felt their appreciation. Thanks, guys. I love you.

And I thought about my mom, of course, because so much of who I am today I owe to her, and I will always miss her. I thought about all the strong women in my life who are mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, aunts, single moms, nieces, cousins.

As we make our way through this life, becoming mothers and motherless, I will take Maya’s words to heart.

I adore you. I cherish you.

 

 

New Year’s Realizations

My New Year’s resolutions are always the same: get in shape, be smarter financially, be more organized. Drink less wine and eat more kale, yada yada yada.

I still want to do all those things, but I’m taking a different approach to 2016. Last year brought a lot of big changes in my life, and I’ve had some time to think about what really makes me happy, what fuels me. Some of it has surprised me, and it’s exciting for me to discover that I am still learning and growing.

As I was thinking about the New Year and the many facets that can lead to happiness, the “4 Cs” kept popping into my head. My summer job during college was working at a jewelry store, where I learned a little about the 4Cs of diamonds: cut, color, clarity, and carat.

So here are my 4C realizations (not resolutions) for 2016:

I need to create. Whether it’s a few words on this blog, working on the novel I really will finish writing,  a professional project that fulfills my creative side or a cool experiment with my son, using my imagination inspires me. I will devote more time to it this year. (But don’t expect anything too crafty.)

I need to contribute. Whether volunteering at school, collecting pennies for uncompensated children’s hospital care, sending toys to Syrian refugees or buying groceries for someone who has less than me, these small gifts mean more to me than the recipient and teach my son compassion. Giving back rewards me, and being part of something bigger than myself grounds me. I will find new ways for my family to give this year.

I need to crack up. I love laughing out loud. My friends are hilarious. My family makes me giggle. I need more of those laughing to tears, side-aching, sore cheek moments in between the rushing, the working, the worrying.

I need to connect. I value my longtime friendships with my most trusted friends, and I’m grateful for growing connections with fellow moms. I need to make time for coffee dates and happy hours and family gatherings and date nights with my husby. Having people in your life you can truly count on, who you can fully support, makes all the difference.

I know that when I’m pursuing these core beliefs, other good stuff follows. I’m even craving spinach right now instead of chocolate. At least that’s what my creative self is trying to tell me.

What are your New Year’s Realizations?

Moments of kindness that moved me

You know those moments- like  when someone cuts you off in traffic or a stranger makes a condescending comment -that instantly change your mood?

My husband saw a woman throw a conniption at the pizza place over the amount of cheese on her extra cheese pizza. The other day, a woman berated my sweet barista because she couldn’t charge just 1 cent on her loyalty card so the customer could earn a star toward a free drink.

Now, when you’re nice to your barista, you get surprises like this:

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In a world so often uncertain, filled with hatred and violence and sadness, small interactions have a profound effect on our moods. We never know what a stranger is dealing with, and no one knows what you might be going through. How lovely to encounter and share kindness.

Here are a few small moments this year that turned my day around, made me smile, and restored my faith in humanity.

The soccer-playing cabbie

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I was rushing to the airport to reach one of my best friends whose mother had just died. I was scrambling to cover all the responsibilities and activities in my absence. One friend was picking my son up for soccer practice while I was waiting for a cab to the airport. The cab driver arrived first and had to wait for a few minutes. Instead of starting the meter, he got out of the cab and played soccer in the street with my son. Instantly eased my stress and made our goodbye much easier. I wish I had gotten his name.

The forgiving parking attendant

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When I picked my dad up from the airport, I paid for the parking and walked a short distance to the car. I have a system for keeping track of those parking tickets, but this day, the system broke down. Somehow between paying my $3 at the self-pay machine and reaching the car, the ticket had disappeared. I dug through every nook and cranny in my purse, retraced my steps, and resigned myself that the parking was going to cost an arm and a leg. The cashier took pity on me and let me leave without paying. Bless her.

The conscientious key-finder

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After my brother got home from a Thanksgiving trip, he couldn’t find his keys. Searched everywhere and called people in two states trying to track them down until a friend saw a post on Facebook. Turns out someone found the keys near the truck where it had been parked. Not only didn’t he steal the truck, he made efforts to find the owner. Good for him.

The nurse with the big heart

Just be kind

I was at the doctor recently, and the kindest nurse checked me in. She was wearing hot pink scrubs and a bright smile. As she prepared to check my blood pressure (after asking in a gentle voice if was ok for her to do so) she put a stethoscope shaped like a heart on my arm. I commented on her warm demeanor and told her I could tell she was a caring person.

“There’s so much going on in the world, people are on edge,” she said. “It’s important to spread kindness.”

Amen.

 

People in wheelchairs deserve to be seen

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I hardly see the wheelchair in one of my favorite photos of my fun-loving mom and my aunt.

I hate that seeing a wheelchair always reminds me of my mom.

She was so much more than that chair. So much more than the monster called MS that she lived with for 30 years.

But whenever I see someone in a wheelchair, or a hopelessly inaccessible bathroom, or a store you can only reach by taking the stairs, I’m reminded of my remarkable mom, who was dependent on a wheelchair for too many years before she died too soon almost 13 years ago.

Sometimes the chair was all people would see.

Sometimes it made this vibrant woman invisible.

I thought about that this weekend while we were at our city’s Halloween festival. We admired the creative costumes, screamed through the haunted house, and trick-or-treated at the shops along the way to the town square for the dog costume contest and the wiener dog races.

A crowd gathered around the small cordoned-off area to watch the tiny four-legged racers. It was hard to see, and kids crouched down at the front while adults stood behind. A man wheeled up and took a spot behind the children.

Soon, a woman appeared and stood directly in front of him. She kept looking around, I assumed, to make sure she wasn’t in anyone’s way. She never noticed the gentleman in the wheelchair behind her. He kept trying to peer around her, to get a glimpse of the action, but he never said anything.

Finally, I touched her gently on the shoulder, letting her kindly know she was blocking his view.  She was embarrassed, she felt bad, and of course she apologized.

“I didn’t even SEE him. I didn’t even SEE him,” she kept repeating.

She didn’t even see him.

My mom would never have been alone. My amazing dad or one of her kids or a friend would have been there to push her forward and make sure she had a clear view. This man was by himself. I don’t know him or anything about his circumstances and really have no right to speak for him.

But I saw him.

And I saw my mom and all the times airport security wanted her to stand up to be searched, all the waiters who tried to get us into a booth rather than seat us at a table she could easily pull up to, and all the salesclerks who looked over her head and asked me if they could help me find something. I thought of the numerous times my Mom was using her electric scooter on our walks and someone jogged by, cheerfully but thoughtlessly saying they envied her ride.

I remembered the times she didn’t want to make a scene when we couldn’t get somewhere she wanted to go, and the times she made a joke about it.

“Watch out for the crazy driver!” she’d laugh as I pushed through department store racks placed too tightly together so she could reach the sweater she wanted to try on.

I’m grateful for the strangers who would hold the door for us, who would help us negotiate a curb where there was no ramp, and especially thankful to those who greeted my mom, instead of avoiding her eyes and looking to me.

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My mom and me, before MS.

Because she was someone you wanted to know. She was a funny, smart, and resilient woman who loved shopping, football, and politics and could debate with the best. Before the disease ravaged her hands, she played a mean piano, and the former English teacher and music school owner inspired her children to play music, to write, to sing. She fought hard and worked hard and loved much and never stopped trying.

She was so much more than that damn chair.

Please remember that the next time you encounter a person in a wheelchair.

Just see her.