George Bailey yells at Uncle Billy in It’s a wonderful Life, Hollywood’s classic story that defines the holiday spirit. “Where’s that money, you silly stupid old fool? George demands darkly. “Where’s that money? Do you realize what this means? It means bankruptcy and scandal. That’s what it means.”
hese are familiar terms. Missing in this holiday season and maybe lost for a long time is the sound of laughter and jingle bells in the distance. The uncomplicated joy of season, little kids on skates, bright eyes that light the sky seem to go unnoticed. Something is wrong, different since November.
Holidays are hard. That is not new. We tend to use these joyous days in a strange way, to measure our lives against expectations, where we are versus where we wish to be. Disappointment comes too easily. Whatever our faith, gratitude for what e have slips beneath fast moving fear. Our ability and willingness to put care away, if only briefly, and celebrate what truly is ours seems to be missing.
Uncertainty may hang over us for a long time to come. How sad that we might just sacrifice these joyous weeks because we no longer know how to let go and be happy. We only worry. Ask any merchant fighting for another year.
I see the world differently because my reference points are not the same. I routinely turn to those who sail directly into the wind, always at risk of going nowhere and even losing it all. They know what matters, what to care about or just move to the back of their minds.
The chronically ill have no illusions. Nearly half the population know the fragility of life and appreciate what we are up against. The physically threatened play for high stakes and are the calmest people I know. We do not sweat the small stuff.
If you believe health is life’s most precious gift, go to one who does not know if he or she will sit at the table with those they love next year. The sick may have learned to live in the moment, in ways few others understand. We have no choice. We have nowhere else to go, no matter who or where we are.
Life is precious. The sick understand as well as anyone. Nothing lasts forever. We have figured that out. What is gone in my life, even with all the uncertainty and hardship, helps me focus on what is still there. I do keep learning, as do others around me.
My grown children know life is unfair, and they cherish what they have. My kids see illness in the family. May these young people never lose what they have figured out around the kitchen table, that others in the world need help. These kids know they are not the center of the universe.
We, the sick, do not feel sorry for ourselves. Carrying around self-pity is a terrible way to live. The load is large, the road long.
Every day I can struggle down subway steps is another day I can live on my terms. I am grateful. Each week I can do for myself is a gift for which I will exchange any necktie. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey doubts his life matters, and he disappears. His wife and children convinces George hew is wrong. George is not as powerless as he thought. Neither are we. We have a lot to live for and much to do. We need to stand straight and kiss somebody. We should smile, wish someone well and get on with it.