“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” ~Clarence (Henry Travers) in “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season has begun. The anticipation of the holidays can be either exciting or stressful. For some it can be both.
Are the holidays a time of great joy for you, or a reminder of a great sadness? Will you be spending time with family and friends, or do you spend the holidays alone? Do you worry endlessly about the many gifts, holiday cards, food preparations, parties and outfits you need to have ready for the season?
Anyone that knows me knows one of my favorite movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s so “Capraesque.”
The first time I saw it I was with my dad during a sleepless night. We kept the lights off in our den, and turned on the television to The Late, Late Show. I remember feeling completely absorbed as soon as the movie began. It was pure magic watching George Bailey have the chance to see how his life touched the lives of others, and to see how their lives would have been different without him.
His community of family and friends deeply cared about his well being, and they worked tirelessly to help him in his time of need. It was a perfect movie with a timeless message. It was the Utopia of my dreams.
“You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.” ~Clarence (Henry Travers) in “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Today, the message of “It’s a Wonderful Life” still holds true. We all have blessings in our lives, even while we endure an illness, lose a loved one, get laid off from a job or suffer the wrath of Mother Nature. I’ll say it again – as Jon Kabat-Zinn teaches us – “There is more right with you than wrong.” This time of year is the perfect time to count our blessings. First, consider what the world would have been like without you. For me, an “oops” baby, my parents would not have had a daughter. My son would never have been born. My cats may not have been rescued. Many people with MS wouldn’t have me as their advocate. You would not be reading An Empowered Spirit. What would the world be like without you?
Now onto my top blessings: Hug my husband, chat with my son, reminisce with my parents, joke with my brothers, take short walks, ride my new bike, perform gentle yoga, use my voice via my writing, knit scarves for orphans, play with my cats, dine with good friends, lecture on MS at nursing homes, smell my peonies, revel in the changing seasons, listen to good music, enjoy art, theater and movies. What are your blessings? Unfortunately, everyone is not as blessed as we are. There is a lot of sadness and tragedy in the world.
While attending Hebrew School as a child, I learned from classic rabbinic literature about “tikkun olam” (world repair), “tzedakah” (charitable giving) and gemilut hasadim (acts of kindness).
These three ideas have been important ones in my life. Now that I’m in my Second Chapter, I feel even stronger about giving back to those who are less fortunate. I think there is a social responsibility we should all assume, to try to care for one another whenever possible.
Save one life and you save the world.
This holiday season, let’s take some time to realize our blessings, and give the gift of ourselves to those in need. They are our family, our friends and our neighbors.
You may not know them, but they are a part of our community – the world community.
Let’s reach out to them and we, like George Bailey, can collectively be the “richest man in town.”
Happy Holidays to you all. May you find peace and joy during this holiday season, and always.
“[In book inscription] Remember, George: No man is a failure who has friends.” ~”It’s a Wonderful Life”
Here are a few charitable organizations that have a special meaning for me. There are endless opportunities to help others by donating your time and money.
Charity Watch: Before donating any money to a charity I research it to make sure it is reputable. At Charity Watch, “The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) is now known as Charity Watch – a name that better reflects our role as the independent, assertive charity watchdog that you rely on.”
BlueWaveNJ Cares (Hurricane Sandy): If you want to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, check out this website. They provide information on where you can go to help, and list relief organizations like The Red Cross and The Salvation Army who are collecting goods for families in need.
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network: After losing a beloved relative this year to pancreatic cancer, this organization is near and dear to my heart. This type of cancer is insidious and has no cure. Let’s help to make strides toward stopping it in its tracks. The PCAN is: “.. fully committed to providing the most comprehensive set of programs and services to fight this very difficult disease. Our commitment and passion are driven by our mission: to advance research, support patients and create hope for anyone facing pancreatic cancer.”
The American Heart Association: Each year I collect money from our neighborhood for AHA because it is also dear to me. Their mission is to “ build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. That single purpose drives all we do. The need for our work is beyond question.” Their work in advocacy, research and education is crucial to help us all maintain healthy lives.
The Humane Society: “The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization. We help animals by advocating for better laws to protect animals; conducting campaigns to reform industries; providing animal rescue and emergency response; investigating cases of animal cruelty; and caring for animals through our sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitation centers, emergency shelters and clinics.” Sav-A-Pet: Please consider adopting or donating – our furry loved ones need us. “SAV-A-PET is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity organization that rescues injured-homeless animals, repairs any injuries and perform surgery if needed, spay or neuter, vaccinate and provide them with safe shelter/home at the Westheimer Animal Clinic Bellaire. Sav-A-Pet has been in operation since 1988 and has had many happy endings thanks to our community. Sav-A-Pet is not a humane shelter or city shelter, we are a private rescue group, in which prospective entrants must be approved prior to entering them into our program if space is available.”
Save the Children: “Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world.”
Middle Mutts: I came across this organization on Facebook and I think they are amazing. “Middle Mutts is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit that works as the “middle man” between high kill shelters and rescue groups. We facilitate the rescue of death row animals by securing rescue commitments and offering transport to our approved rescue partners.” If you love animals please consider donating (or adopting!) to Middle Mutts.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society: “The National MS Society is a collective of passionate individuals who want to do something about MS now—to move together toward a world free of multiple sclerosis. MS stops people from moving. We exist to make sure it doesn’t.”
UNICEF: Remember “Trick or treat for UNICEF”? The kids no longer collect on Halloween, but UNICEF continues to need our help. “UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. We have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality. That makes us unique among world organizations, and unique among those working with the young.”
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