Beginning in 1959 and going all the way up to 1991, watching The Wizard of Oz on TV was an annual event that families looked forward to all year. Home video in 1980, and more current versions of DVDs, Blu-Rays, and digital downloads have made it easy to watch the iconic 1939 classic film at any time, but there is still something extra fun about watching it as it airs on TV.
Margaret Hamilton is probably best known and remembered for her portrayal of The Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 Oz film. I also love that she played Morticia Addam’s mother on The Addams Family TV series from the 60s, and the fact that before she started her acting career she was a teacher… but I digress. Our friend Maggie had quite the mishap on the Oz movie set. After The Wicked Witch of the West (from now on referred to as WWW… which, by the way, was how she signed photos for fans for most of her life) has her first interaction with Dorothy in Munchkinland, she makes her exit in a burst of smoke and flame. This was meticulously rehearsed, but unfortunately, whoever was operating the fire effect released it too soon. Maggie was still above the set platform, and that fire effect grabbed part of her hat. She did not realize initially that her makeup was on fire as crew immediately went to her aid, but it didn’t take long to feel the pain. She ended up with 2nd degree burns on her face, and 3rd degree burns on her hand.
After this terrifying incident, Maggie understandably refused to have anything else to do with smoke and fire, so it was her stand-in, Betty Danko, who filmed some unused footage of the WWW. The sky-writing message sequence was a bit longer with some additional shots filmed of Betty from the back. During this filming, the broomstick blew up, sent Betty flying across the sound stage, and crashing to the floor. She spent some time in the hospital as a result of this incident.
In a strange similarity, the Broadway musical sensation, Wicked, had its own real-life WWW “melting” moment. Idina Menzel (more popularly known now as the voice of Queen Elsa in the Disney Frozen franchise) was the original WWW for Wicked, called by the name Elphaba (so named because the initials of the Oz books author, L. Frank Baum, sort of say “elphaba” when you read LFB as a “word” of sorts). On the night before Idina’s last scheduled performance as Elphaba, there was an accident with the trap door. Idina fell and crashed, resulting in a cracked rib. After curtain call the following night, which again was supposed to be her last performance, she came out to take her final bow and said to the audience, “I love you all. It’s been the best year of my life. Thank you.”
Have you ever been doing something you love and enjoy and have a mishap occur? Maybe you didn’t get physically hurt like our WWW friends, but mental and emotional hurts can be just as painful. When you think about the activity, is that hurt the one thing that stands out to you? Did you stop participating in the activity as a result of the injury? No one can blame Margaret Hamilton for staying away from anything to do with smoke and fire after her injury and near-death experience. Her cautious actions actually saved her from experiencing another injury! There is nothing wrong with exercising caution and using wisdom and common sense to keep yourself out of harm’s way. However, is that negative experience enough to keep you from the thing you loved? Is that the only thing that comes to mind when looking back? Margaret Hamilton wasn’t trying to rush into fire again, but she didn’t walk off the movie. She loved the Oz books, and wanted to be a part of the film. Idina Menzel wasn’t thrilled with having her own injury, but that one incident didn’t make her have a negative view of her time playing Elphaba. Remember her final words to the audience? And even all these years later, she still opens most of her live shows with a medley of Wicked songs.
As humans, we tend to dwell on the negative. I’ll be the first to raise my hand to admit I do a lot of that. We can often let one negative experience turn us completely away from something that could be amazing. I worked at a pretty awful school once, and it really made me doubt myself as a teacher. My boisterous “Ms. Hale” persona didn’t fit in, so colleagues sabotaged my work, and a whole mess of other stupid that I’m not diving into right now. Holding an out-of-state teaching certificate caused me to have to leave the classroom anyway, but I was thrilled to be out of that environment. Many years passed, and when the opportunity to be a teacher again presented itself, I was worried. Sure, I had been using my skills as an educator all along in every job I had, but “Ms. Hale” had been forced into a storage closet never to be seen again. Can I still do it? Would anyone even want me now? God showed me that I do “still have it” and I am still desired by having more than one school interview me and really like me. One school that ended up going with another applicant (who holds a higher degree than I possess), even told another school that they needed to interview me because I impressed them so and they liked me so much. That made me feel amazing! God really blessed me with a great support group diving back into the world to education this past year. I could have easily completely given up on ever being a traditional teacher again, and that would have been fine. Who could blame me after all my last school had done? But despite all the hurt and bad experiences, my heart never left the classroom. I never stopped wanting to be “Ms. Hale” and would often look back on all the good and wonderful things that happened while I was a teacher. Now, I have a whole new world of good things ahead! Did I have issues this past year? Yep. But if you ask me about my first year back, I’m only going to tell you about the wonderful people I worked with, the hilarious interactions with them and students, and how one of my fellow faculty members set me up on my very first date. Why? Because that is what stands out. The stressors of being a teacher and all that goes with it are greatly overshadowed by the reason I wanted to be a teacher in the first place.
What about you? It may not be job-related, but do you have any experiences in your life that caused you to turn away from or give up on something or someone you love? I’m not talking about repeated abuse or any of those obviously bad things that you should never go back to; I’m talking about things and people that truly make your heart happy. The Bible says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galations 6:9). The Lord also tells us through the prophet Isaiah, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (41:10). If you truly feel a calling on your life, or are involved with people, activities, etc. that bring you true joy and you feel deep within you that you need to stick it out with, yet experience some kind of setback, problem, or trouble; then ask the Lord for His wisdom. He will give you the strength to keep pushing forward through the difficulties, or the wisdom to step back. No matter what may try to “melt” you, remember that the Lord has great plans for you that are good and not evil, to give you a future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11). May this help you to “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong,” (1 Corinthians 16:13) no matter what fire or trap doors you encounter in life.