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Friday, December 20, 2013

A Wonderful Life

As I sat here, flitting around on the computer, Trent turned on the television. And as it happens, the movie he found in progress, is one of my all-time favorites, It's a Wonderful Life. Many people will list it as one of their favorite Christmas movies, but I don't think of it in that way. To me, the fact that part of the movie happens at Christmastime is incidental. I am just as likely to be in the mood to watch it on a hot day in July as I am in December. Do you think that makes me weird? Oh, well.

Why don't I consider it a niche movie, a holidays-only story? I could go on for days about that, I suppose. In the effort to explain my feelings about the movie, all of my eloquence would probably jump right out the window. Luckily, since we live on the first floor, it wouldn't be a terrifically dangerous fall. No more damage than a few bruises to my ego. But I think I will give it a try anyway.

I think what really appeals to me about this story is that none of us really know the impact we have on other people's lives. We may have struggles in our lives and stumble along the way. Perhaps we had dreams of fame, or greater financial security than we have been able to achieve. We may find ourselves living a life that we think is okay, but nothing to get overly excited about. I don't know about you, but nobody's been knocking on my door and begging me to write my life story. Or, for that matter, for my secrets of wealth, fame, and beauty.

As a kid, I always felt like the ugly duckling who would never grow into a beautiful swan. I had a gap between my front teeth, and inherited my mother's double chin, which I even had when I was so skinny that, as my Gram would say, I needed to turn around twice to make a shadow. I had lovely skin, but I can tell you most assuredly that lupus and rosacea have taken their toll on that. Suffice it to say I am not the person who will jump in front of a camera when pictures are about to be taken. But then I remember a beautiful moment that happened during my high school Psychology class. Mr. Marcucci, the teacher I wrote about in a piece called Substitutes, had us pair randomly for an interesting exercise. I happened to be paired with a girl I had known in elementary school, who moved back into the area during high school. We were to sit face-to-face and share something positive with the other person. I was stunned when Kendra told me she had always been jealous of my teeth. "What? I said. "I hate my teeth! This gap is so ugly!" She went on to tell me that she always wished that she had my teeth because they were so straight and white and beautiful. Hers were crooked and she needed to have them straightened with braces. It made me cry to have someone compliment and envy what I thought was my worst feature.

I have had people drop random snippets on me, letting me know that I have inspired or helped them in some way. One of the most touching was when I thought that someone made a job change because I had failed him as a trainer. When I asked him if I had let him down and made him want to change his job, his face bloomed with a huge and happy smile. He said that it was actually quite the opposite, and that he wanted to thank me personally, as well as on behalf of his mother. He went on to tell me that before he went through my training, he had quit college because he thought that school was boring. It was my training, he said, that made him realize that learning could be interesting and fun. He had changed his position and work hours so that he could go back to school.

So, now that I have rambled and blathered, I guess it all comes down to a few simple things. We may not feel that we are important. We may not fit into society's picture of what makes a person a success. Heck, we may even feel like failures at times. But we never know what our presence may have meant in another person's life. Perhaps our lack of funds has made us more sensitive and charitable to others. Maybe our lack of beauty has made us more able to see the inner beauty of others, and helped them be able to love themselves and others. Our patience while others stumble and fall, as we have done, may have saved someone else from giving up on life entirely. But we'll never really know. But I love the idea, the small possibility, that perhaps I have lived a wonderful life. If I have touched or comforted or helped or taught anyone during my time here, then I most certainly have.


Postscript/trivia: I often wondered if the characters Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street were named after the cop and cab driver in the movie. I have since learned that they were, and that makes me happy. Also, there's a line in the movie that I adore and use all of the time, "Youth is wasted on the wrong people!"