I used to love the annual showing of the Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In spite of the schmaltz, it’s got a lot going for it: great chemistry between Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed as George and Mary Bailey; an ethical man who refuses to be bought off and a gutsy wife who sees his gifts under his grouchiness; a town that comes together when the hero is in trouble, for starters.
But this year I got so mad I turned off the TV half way through the movie. There was just no way I could watch one more time a premise that without one person, a whole town will go to hell. As if without George Bailey, the feisty Mary would be doomed to be a skittish old maid, and his lively mother would turn bitter and mean. As if no one but George had gumption, or brains, or any option other than to be crushed under the thumb of the nasty Mr. Potter. As if there was no other way for George to serve others than by denying himself his own dreams and his family of his own aliveness.
Just after Obama’s election, Alice Walker wrote a wonderful piece of advice to him that I wish a lot of people would take to heart and into action:
I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely [children]. And so on…
One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. http://http://www.theroot.com/id/48726
Here’s what I think would make a truly wonderful life for all of us Georges and Marys and everyone else who is in this economic mess together: all of us have a role to play, and it’s not waiting for a fixer to render him or herself juiceless supposedly on our behalf. All of us have talents that only come alive if we stretch them. All of us have wisdom we can only tap if we take time for peace and quiet, plus some play time. All of us have something to gain by rolling up our sleeves and giving the service to which we are called.
The Chinese have long said that in every challenge is opportunity. The pioneer heritage in this country had some really great models for turning challenges into opportunity in our time. Out of necessity came creativity, thrift and resilience. Out of tiny scraps of cloth came patchwork quilts, bringing beauty and warmth. Out of loneliness and the need for help came quilting parties and barn-raisings where, yes, there was often a need for a leader, but the real fun and efficiency came from the teamwork.
What could we do in our country today in the spirit of the quilting bee or barn-raising to help bring each other out of this recession while helping each other grow and have fun in the process?
Do tell with a comment below.
Come back real soon with your tips and inspiration,
Pat McHenry Sullivan