Last evening, I had the privilege of seeing “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the holiday classic starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. For those unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a hard-working, humble man—George Bailey— who never really felt like he’d accomplished “big things”, like he’d originally hoped. Family circumstances kept him living in the same town in which he grew up, much to his disdain. When a crisis happens at his business, he faces a severe professional and financial downfall. He realizes he’s worth more dead than alive, because of a life insurance policy.
Just as he contemplates suicide, an angel appears and shows him what the world would be like if he hadn’t been born. It’s a powerful movie, and one of my favorite quotes is from Clarence, George’s guardian angel,
“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?”
Now, I’ve seen this movie several times, but with the way I’ve been feeling lately, I needed this message. You see, I have been struggling with unmet goals and feeling like a failure. My husband is probably tired of me saying, “I don’t know what my purpose is. If I disappeared, nobody would notice.”
As a young man, James Stewart’s character tells his father, “I want to do something big!” Oh, how I can relate. Being an author, it’s so easy to compare myself to other authors, ones who get a lot of attention, win awards, and get fabulous publishing deals. I’m self-published, so it’s even harder to get my name out there. And if I based my writing career on how “big” my name was, I’d be considered a flop.
But writing is just one aspect of my life. I know I can’t base my worth on my writing success. I have so many other roles, and as Clarence states, “each man’s life touches so many other lives.” We may not see it in our lifetimes, but we do impact others. Family, friends, co-workers, the cashier at Target, you never know! And even with my tiny reader audience, I’m able to impact lives. It may not feel “big”, but every life is valuable; every reader is valued.
Maybe there’s a reason I haven’t had great worldly success with my writing. Perhaps I’m supposed to be like George Bailey: quietly going about my work, loving the people around me, being kind to those I serve, and being content with my place in the world. Eventually George came to love and appreciate his life, even if he didn’t make a lot of money or travel the world.
I’m still working on being content, and as we enter a new decade, I pray I can fall into contentment and leave comparison and low self-worth behind.