MU professor’s kindness reaches around the globe
HUNTINGTON - It was what Larry Bailey, Bible studies professor at Marshall University, does every year - open his home to students with nowhere to go on Thanksgiving for a home-cooked family meal.
He didn’t know that his kind gesture would touch the lives of those around the world after a student posted the heartwarming message on Twitter and it went viral.
Marshall sophomore broadcast journalism student Madison Davis just wanted to share with her peers what a true family the Marshall community is when she posted the email she received from Bailey on Nov. 16.
“Students,” the emails reads, “in the case that any of you do not have somewhere to spend Thanksgiving, I would be honored if you spent it with me and my family. You need not feel awkward about it; you would be treated as family, and you would definitely be filled with good food and joyful heart. I must warn you though, we are loud and laugh a lot. So, if you have nowhere else to go, why be alone when you can be surrounded by people that will love you?”
As of Wednesday, the tweet had been shared 43,000 times and liked by 268,000 Twitter users. Davis said people from as far as South Africa have reached out to her about the post.
“I think in the world today, especially on social media and in the news, all you see is negativity,” Davis said. “That’s one reason I posted it. I think people like seeing that and have their faith in humanity restored.”
Bailey said he is still trying to wrap his head around going viral.
Inviting students to his home for the holidays - from Thanksgiving to Easter - is something he and his wife, Pam, have been doing for years. It started when he was attending school in Florida and they lived across from a girls dormitory.
“We made friends, and immediately my wife began to invite students over because she felt bad they were far away from home,” Bailey said.
“It became a weekly ritual then of every Thursday, kids came over. We had from five to 30 kids in our house. We’d cook a meal for them and they could get some couch time, hang out.”
They then started hosting the families of those students who couldn’t afford to come visit otherwise.
“It’s something we’ve kept up,” he said. “We’ve had this idea that if it was our children off away from home, it can be lonely. We’d want someone to take care of our kids.”
Bailey said it’s the heart of his wife that’s special.
“We’ve been married 22 years,” he said. “The whole concept of the family feeling - I am good at making the invitation and I fry the turkey, but it’s her that makes it happen. It makes her glow inside when someone takes an offer up like that.”
Over the past 10 years he’s been at Marshall, a handful of students have taken up his offer, he said.
“They have come at other times, when they’ve been in crisis and what have you, and ate with us,” he said. “We adopt them into our family.”
Davis said when you walk into Bailey’s classroom, you feel a sense of belonging and feel loved and appreciated.
“The fact he extends that outside of the classroom is not surprising at all,” she said.
“What I kept thinking was what an amazing act of kindness,” said Marshall President Jerome Gilbert. “I am proud to be at a university where we have such wonderful people like Larry Bailey. We are blessed at Marshall. We are truly a family.”
Bailey is the pastor at Living Water Free Methodist Church on 5th Street in Altizer. The church works closely with Harmony House, hosting dinners, and also has a community food pantry.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.