It is a wonderful life, isn’t it? There’s no denying the fact that all of us have or will suffer hardships, whether it is illness, loss of a loved one, or difficulties in our jobs. However, when we stop and look through the wide-angle lens of perspective, we can see that our lives are replete with many unacknowledged gifts that surround us each day. Unfortunately, these gifts remain out of our everyday awareness, buried under the stress of the problems du jour. We’re simply too busy and preoccupied to stop and appreciate all that we have been given.
Several years ago I had the good fortune to attend a retreat conducted by the Zen master, Thich Nhat Hahn. During one of his talks he asked the audience members how many of us had a toothache that day. Few, if any of the two hundred or so attendees had a toothache that morning. He then asked us how many of us where “enjoying our non-toothache.” The answer, of course, was few, if any! How many of us are grateful that we are able to talk, see, and walk around the block? That our immune system is on guard for us 24/7? These are just a few of the many incredible things in our lives that most of us take for granted. We know we should be grateful; we simply don’t take the time out of our busy lives for the practice of gratitude.
On Christmas Eve I’ll be joining my family at the local theater to watch the Christmas-classic “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I’ve seen the movie twenty times or so, yet the film remains as fresh and necessary as the first time I saw it. My wife, Katherine, refers to the movie as “your movie”, i.e. the story of my life. I did write in our book how I could relate to George Bailey as he pleads with God to help him in a desperate situation. The simple, yet profound lessons in the film about the power of kindness and generosity never fails to move me to tears.
It’s an important film, ever so much so in this age of increasing self-absorption. The film reminds us that there are many more fulfilling things in life than taking “selfies”, such as helping others without obvious personal gain.It helps us put our problems in perspective, and shows us the unexpected ways in which our behavior can touch others.
So this Christmas I’ll be reminded that no matter how big my problems may seem, that it is, indeed, a wonderful life!