Where do you find inspiration? I’ll let you in on a secret source of the stuff. Well, it’s not really a secret, it’s actually been around for 67 years. It’s called the Christopher Awards.
Sponsored by the nonprofit organization of the same name, founded by Maryknoll Father James Keller, the awards annually recognize the creators of books, films and television programming that affirm the highest values of the human spirit. Even if you don’t know too much about The Christophers, you are probably familiar with its motto: “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
There was a lot of light on the top floor of the 35-story Mutual of America headquarters building on Park Avenue in Manhattan, where the awards ceremony was held on the evening of May 19. And it wasn’t just because the large room had full-length windows on three sides.
I had missed the awards ceremony last year so it was nice to be back.
Where else in the same evening could you hope to meet and greet WCBS-TV newsman Tony Aiello, Hallmark Channel executive vice president for programming and publicity Michelle Vicary and comedy writer and radio personality Tom Leopold, who served as master of ceremonies.
Or listen to a heartfelt expression of faith by Today Show co-host Kathie Lee Gifford, one of the awards presenters, as she described the long and deep friendship she’s shared for many years with former Hollywood agent Sam Haskell. He was honored in the TV and cable category as an executive producer of “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors” on NBC.
Inspiration was all around, and it was easy to get caught up in the good feelings. The setting encourages you to bring your best self forward, not in a showy way, but because it is the right thing to do.
Speaking with Mary Ellen Robinson, executive vice president of The Christophers, we agreed that God does bring people together very naturally in places like the one in which we found ourselves.
A few minutes later, one of the event’s public relations consultants asked me to say hello to someone else, which I was happy to do. As it turned out, that gave me the opportunity to meet several of the executives behind “When Calls the Heart,” the highly rated Sunday night Hallmark Channel show that was honored with a Christopher Spirit Award.
The Spirit Award is one of only two where the honorees have a chance to make remarks. (The other is the Lifetime Achievement Award taken home this year by longtime TV news anchor Ernie Anastos, now of FOX5.)
One of the show’s representatives shared a few thoughts that beautifully described what “When Calls the Heart” seeks to project to its audience, and also encapsulated the tenor of the work the Christopher Awards seeks to honor.
The speaker told of a conversation he had with one of the show’s many online fans, appropriately called “Hearties,” who asked him to choose three words that accurately depict its appeal.
The three words he chose were faith, hope and love. They were, of course, from the familiar verse from First Corinthians, which goes on to say that love is the greatest of the three.
“That’s what our show is all about,” he said. “The world needs it—we’re pushing out ‘radical’ programming to the culture.”
I probably wouldn’t have chosen “radical” to describe such programming. However, considering the cultural milieu in which we now find ourselves, I have to admit that he may have a point.
Where do you find inspiration? When you are at the Christopher Awards ceremony, it's easy to find it all around you.