Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

"You've been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you. " ~Clarence

The celebration of Christmas has resulted in a whole host of traditions that families pass down from one generation to the next. Decorating the Christmas tree, singing carols, reading the Christmas story and exchanging gifts are just a few of the common traditions that extend back many long years through the generations.

In more recent years, because movies and television have more or less emerged during the Boomer generation, a new set of traditions has been added. For some families it's the watching of Charlie Brown's Christmas, created by Charles Schultz near 60 years ago for television. In our family it has been the shared watching of A Christmas Carol, the George C. Scott version.

Before we finally got the DVD we used to watch a VHS version that we taped from television in the late 1980s. Watching this story for ten, fifteen and twenty years has not only brought a continuity to our traditions, but a lot of laughs as we try to say some of the lines just before they're said on the film. "Cratchitt!"... and "Another sound from you... and you'll keep your Christmas by losing your situation."

After the visit by deceased friend and partner Bob Marley, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future all visit the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas eve and teach him that there are other ways of looking at the world besides the way he sees things. The lessons are many and valuable, and the story richly entertaining and heart-warming to boot.

There's another film that many families share as a tradition. Like A Christmas Carol it's the story of a man who has been seeing things wrong, but instead of ghosts helping him get perspective on his life, it's a quirky guardian angel named Clarence, striving to earn his wings.

This film, too, has so many memorable moments and lines. The scene where Jimmy Stewart is inwardly despondent over the lost money and lashes out at his children is heartbreaking in the extreme. The screenwriting, directing by Frank Capra and the acting are all five star. In honor of the 65th anniversary of this film, the Los Angeles City Council declared this past Friday "It's a Wonderful Life Day."

One theme common to both these films is the deep insight that our lives are interconnected to others in ways we often don't see because we're caught up in our selves. If we're fortunate, we can begin to grasp the truths contained here without a visitation by ghosts or George Bailey's suicidal despair.

Whatever your traditions as regards Christmas, my prayer is that you will be richly rewarded with new self-understanding this season as regards your role in the bigger scheme of things. For some reason I keep wanting to say thank you.

"You see George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?"

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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