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Friday, December 21, 2012

It's Still a Wonderful Life

Jerry Richardson, channeling Zuzu in This Wonderful Life
An adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life, staged as a one-man show? This I had to see. How could one actor portray all those characters? Just logistically, how would it work? Intrigued, I procured babysitting, and took Carl as a pre-Christmas gift.

Jerry Richardson deserves a Tony. Seriously. He performed, alone, for 70 minutes straight, and somehow managed to convey the entire story of It’s a Wonderful Life. It was funny, heartwarming, and just what I needed to prod me into the Christmas spirit that had been lacking.

Of course I knew the story of George Bailey, who wanted to see the world, and ended up in his hometown, running his dad’s small business, raising four children. On Christmas Eve, his uncle loses a fortune of the business’s money, and it looks like they are headed for bankruptcy and jail. George contemplates suicide, thinking he’s worth more dead, with the life insurance proceeds, than he is alive.

But George’s guardian angel appears and shows him what the world would have looked like if he’d never been born. Though George never left Bedford Falls, he saved his brother’s life, and his brother saved hundreds of lives in the war. George’s small business allowed many families to build homes and businesses, to build a community. When he sees the impact he’s had on others, George has a new appreciation for his ordinary life, and returns home with impassioned gratitude.

I love the message of the story – that one person’s goodness and integrity has ripple effects far beyond their vision. As we left the show, I pondered how my life has affected the world. I thought about the clients I helped obtain asylum in the United States. Partly because of my help, they were able to stay in the United States, live in safety, start over. I feel certain that they have positively impacted others, in ways that would have been impossible in their homelands where they faced persecution.

Whoever we are and whatever our jobs, I believe we all can have a positive effect on the world. In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, if you’re feeling small or scared or powerless, try the George Bailey view. Your small life, lived with kindness and integrity, can have effects far beyond your imagining. With every person you encounter, you have a chance to change the world for the better. Maybe your smile, your hug, your patience is the thing that turns their whole day around. And maybe their smile, hug or patience turns someone else’s day around. Kindness is contagious.

Last Wednesday Daniel and I had a rough start to our day. Neither of us had slept well, and everything was a struggle, with lots of screaming and crying. By 7 AM, I had used up my daily allotment of patience. Then I remembered the homemade cranberry muffins Carolyn had given me. I poured Daniel some juice, myself some coffee, and we savored the treats in silence, the sweetness improving both our moods. Carolyn’s love gave me a reprieve, reminded me of the beauty and goodness of life. It may seem a small thing, but her kindness flipped my mood back to happy, and I went on to be a calm and kind presence at work, which could have helped improve other people's day.

For me, the message of Christmas is that at the darkest times of life, light appears. We can be the light for others. So bake muffins, let others in front of you in line, give money and presents and kisses. Because lighting up the world for others makes our own lives brighter too. 

Merry Christmas!


  1. Julie, thanks for the timely reminder that each of us can make a difference one act of kindness at a time.

  2. I think if everyone made a commitment to provide at least one "pay it forward" moment to friends and strangers every day, the world would be such a better place. I'm going to shoot for that goal. As the movie tells you, it comes back to you in multiples.

    Merry Christmas, Julie.