Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thanks Be To Gladys

Dearest Readers,

Last fall, I blogged about a conversation with a friend who told me about a film called The Inn of the Sixth Happiness starring Ingrid Bergman as a missionary in China. My friend shared a courageous quote from the film with me and I've used it a lot ever since.

Last weekend I was poring over the DVD's at the local library and guess what I found? The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. Of course, I had to get it.

Well, if you've already gone back to read the earlier post, you'll see that I called the film a "B-movie that nobody saw". Not exactly true. It wasn't a B-movie at all. It was nominated for an Oscar and a number of other awards and was largely hailed at the time of its release.

Another interesting point to correct is the quote my friend had shared. She remembered it as, "Yes, open the door." In fact, when the guard asks the Bergman character if she is afraid she says, "Yes, I am afraid. Now open the gate." Same diff but worth mentioning anyway.

What is the sixth happiness? Bergman's character, Gladys Aylward, also wants to know. According to the woman who Gladys asks, another female missionary, the Chinese believe there are five happinesses: wealth, longevity, good health, virtue and a peaceful death in old age. Gladys' mentor then goes on to say that each person decides in her own heart what the sixth happiness is.

Gladys Aylward was a real person. She was devoted to serving her God and gave her life to the Chinese people in myriad ways, including helping nearly one hundred orphans of war trek through dangerous mountains to safety. But at the end of the film Gladys gives up her devotion to service as well as the loving children she's adopted to go back to a man with whom she's fallen in love. Her sixth happiness is romantic love.

Now, it's not impossible for a person called by Higher Love to change her mind and follow the path of Romantic Love. But it's a pretty radical shift so I did a little bit of research to find out if Gladys really did give up selfless service for marriage. Guess what? She did not.

I found this quote in an online biography:

"Please note that although Inn of the Sixth Happiness is a well-produced, heartwarming movie starring the great actress Ingrid Bergman it was a thorn in the side of Gladys Aylward. She was deeply embarrassed by the movie because it was so full of inaccuracies. Hollywood also took great liberties with her infatuation with the Chinese Colonel Linnan, even changing him into an Eurasian. But Gladys, the most chaste of women, was horrified to learn the movie had portrayed her in 'love scenes'. She suffered greatly over what she considered her soiled reputation."

Can you imagine seeing your life portrayed in a major Hollywood film and the life they portray is actually not your own? Talk about having to "let go and let God!"

All this to say that Gladys Aylward, the real Gladys Aylward, is now on my list of Inspiring Teachers. It might have been the writer of The Inn of the Sixth Happiness who gave us, "Yes, I am afraid. Now open the gate," but it was Gladys who inspired her to write it.

Inspiring Message of the Day: We can look for inspiration in those Great Teachers who have blazed the trail before us. When I am fearful I will remember their stories and use their courageous example to spur me on.

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