Every Christmas season I make my movie rounds. Tradition dictates that I start with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on Thanksgiving, followed closely by Scrooged, Home Alone, The Santa Clause, and of course, It’s a Wonderful Life.
No matter how many times I watch It’s a Wonderful Life, I am touched by the idea that we each make a difference. What, if like George, we all got a glimpse into how different the world would look without our contributions? Would we value our lives more? Would we pay more attention to our impact on others and the world around us? Would we be less hard on ourselves, knowing the world was a better place because we existed?
When I wrote several letters of appreciation last year, I was struck by how many people have and continue to make a difference in my life. Thousands. I think of my students faces, my family, my roommates, the baristas at Peet’s, the homeless man I see walking every day, my teachers, etc. They have all made a difference, and my life is better because of them.
Like most people though, I find that it’s easier to think of the people that have made a difference in my life rather than to consider how I’ve made an impact in others’ lives. A friend recently told me of the effect I had in her life. I was taken back and honored by her candor, gratitude, and love. She said, “You don’t know what your words have meant to me. You make such a difference.” I knew that we were close friends, but I didn’t realize to what extent my friendship had an influence.
I’m not sure why we’re not more encouraged to express our appreciation for people and their impact in our lives, but I hope that in 2011, I can share more “Jimmy Stewart Moments” with the daily people who make my life richer.