Thursday, December 17, 2009
Lessons from the movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Since we don’t have someone like Clarence, who shows us all the ways in which we’ve made a difference, we might occasionally have moments when we wonder how we got to where we are and ask why our lives don’t seem as significant as we feel they ought to be.
Losing a loved one, being laid off from a job, finding yourself light years away from where you thought you’d be by a certain age or place in your career, ministry, or faith can all lead to questions and reflection.
An important point to ponder if/when we reach such a line of internal questioning: each one of us touches so many other lives.
Some we touch lightly, just in passing on the street, in the check-out line at the grocery store, or over a phone call at work.
Others we touch on a deeper level, in ways we may not even realize, by what we say and do as well as by how and why we say and do things. What’s amazing is we will probably never know how deep an impact we’ve had on someone’s life this side of heaven. The thing is we might not realize for years how profoundly someone else has affected our own life.
I still remember and pray for people whom I haven’t seen or had any contact with in years, because they made an impression on me. A childhood best friend, a classmate in second grade who was courageous in a dangerous situation, the teachers who cared about me as a person, not just as a student, the choir members who exuded joy at the opportunity to praise the Lord, the hard-working janitor many of us believed to be an angel in disguise, the peer leader who led our group at a college retreat…all come to mind and enter my prayers, because they taught me something important.
Even in this day of internet and social networking, we can lose touch with family and friends. Though our daily, weekly, or monthly contact may have ceased, those people are still a part of us. We still benefit from the love they gave us and may still be sending us from an undisclosed location. Our prayers for them and theirs for us are heard by God.
Loved ones we’ve lost are still with us in spirit, in memory, in the aspects of their lives that remain in us. Their love for us and ours for them isn’t broken by death. The ways of expressing love change, but it’s still there. Love never ends.
We don’t need to have lots of money or a huge platform to make a difference in the world. There are plenty of little things we can do with great love each day that can change those around us for the better.
Kevin often remarks how kind and friendly people are, and I tell him it’s because he brings that out in them. He usually approaches with a smile and possibly jokes around, and people respond to that. Something as simple as a smile really can make a difference in someone’s day. Laughter also helps lighten the burdens we carry.
Joy tends to be contagious. Oftentimes at school, the discovery of a caterpillar or a frog will illicit sincere excitement. A silly song or dance at circle time will inspire giggles and silliness. The radiance of a mother-to-be extends to others around her. An elderly grandfather grinning ear to ear as he watches his grandchildren play exhibits sheer joy. Welcoming loved ones home for the holidays with special preparations and decorations helps all involved to rejoice in the anticipation of celebrating Emmanuel, God with us.
How can we spread true joy to others this holiday season? By letting them know that their presence in our lives has made a difference. By giving the gift we can never get back to those we love: our time.
Lord, please open our hearts and minds to the ways we can spread the joy of Your Son’s life in the world. Prepare us to receive Jesus Christ into our homes and hearts. Give us a greater awareness of those people whose lives have touched ours and lead us to thank them and glorify you for such blessings and signs of hope. Amen.