Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting the Wilton Town Hall Theatre for their annual showing of "It's A Wonderful Life". I had never experienced this Wilton tradition myself and thanks to a good friend going along with me (my husband was working) I decided to make the trip. When I pulled into town, the street was lined with luminaries being lit and there wasn't a single parking space on Main Street! After parking at the police station I carried my box of canned goods, the price of admission, to the theater, met my friend and we both exclaimed we had no idea how much of a *thing* this was! When we entered the theater the line for the concession was down the stairs and more chairs were being brought in to the theater to accommodate everyone. After grabbing my popcorn and lemonade and finding my way to my seat the experience began.
I've watched this movie many times, but never on a BIG screen and never with such a crowd filled with enthusiasm. People were laughing at every joke and just generally having a great time. And the thing I thought was most amazing, people brought bells to ring when Clarence got his wings! Had I only known I would have brought the bell from the studio!
So why am I telling you all of this? Two reasons really - the first is that it reminded me of how much mindfulness can change your experience. I think every other time I've ever "watched" this movie I was also doing something else. Wrapping presents, on the phone, talking to someone in the room... whatever. This was the first time I ever really put all those iconic pieces that we see about this movie all the time together. And what a story! A man who has done nothing but serve others finds himself in a bind and his kindness is remembered and then some.
I was really struck by the part in the opening dialogue when Clarence is asking about his assignment.
Clarence: Is he sick?
Joseph: No worse, he's discouraged.
Discouraged is worse than sick? Wow!
Which leads me to my second point - while this time of year is a joyful time for many, it can be much less than that for many as well. I say this from personal experience. Many of you know my grandfather passed away on Christmas Day 2011. He had lived to a ripe old age, and while that was some comfort, it was still a loss for me and my family. This year is the first year in a long time (my holiday spirit was less than high before that for a variety of reasons) that I've felt even the slightest inkling of holiday spirit. In many ways, I didn't think that would be possible for me again given my associations with Christmas. But somehow that spark is letting itself be known again.
So how did it happen? I'm not really sure. But I think something that is helping cultivate that spark is finding the joy in the small things. If you're struggling this holiday season, can you find one small thing that means joy to you? Whether that's as simple as a hot cup of coffee or the purr of your cat or the smile of a stranger on the street? If you find you're full of Christmas cheer but you know that someone else you care for doesn't have that in them right now, can you just give them a hug and tell them you understand? Can you take a moment to listen to them instead of dismissing them? Your open ear may be all they need to find some small piece of joy.
When I got home last night I told my husband that next year he simply MUST take the afternoon off work to go with me. And he agreed while wondering what alien had kidnapped his wife. ;-) We're starting a new holiday tradition that I hope we might share with others. What about you?