There was one person missing this year - my little brother Nick who is serving a LDS mission in Madagascar. We got to talk to him for awhile today - and it improved my life to talk to him about things that are so much bigger, so much more important, than any of my silly stresses and petty concerns. Talking to a missionary serving in a 3rd world country, seeing how much they grow and change, is a humbling experience. It puts things into perspective. It reminds you how much you have - and how much you can give. I have a dream that one year when I have my own little family - we will take everything and anything we would've spent on Christmas and find a way to help someone else - perhaps go to Mexico and help build a school or bring supplies to an orphanage in Northern Africa. There are always ways we can help - and always more we can give.
I got some great things for Christmas - some novels, a cookbook, a crock pot, some movies, and a some perfume. Even better though, I also found a place to live. Finally. Finally after months and months of living out of suitcases and feeling like a lost and lonely transient, considering places appropriately referred to as "The Den of Rape", and feverishly clawing my way back into a "normal existence" - I found a house. A house with a kitchen and a dishwasher. A house with beautiful wood floors, lovely bedrooms, and a fireplace. A house in Holiday near grocery stores and freeway entrances. The best part - it's a house in my price range with lovely girls - one of which owns a PIANO. I know, right? As if finding a adorable house in a good location with a great price and nice roomies isn't enough - I get access to a piano too. And so help me I'll be using it! I'm signing the lease on Monday and will be moving in on January 3rd. I'm so excited, so relieved, and so grateful to have my own room, a kitchen to cook in, and a piano to play on after feeling out of place for so long.
Now - I started out this post talking about Christmas traditions. One other tradition we have on Christmas Eve at my house, after coming back from Grandma's in Emery, is to all gather around the TV and watch Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life." We all love this movie. I get choked up every year. And every year, I learn something new, I notice something different when I watch it that improves my life. This year...I found myself in Jimmy Stewarts character George Bailey. If you aren't familiar with the movie - suffice it to say George Bailey had big dreams. He wanted to go to college, he wanted to "get away" and travel the world. He wanted to be an explorer ever since he was born, and he tried to take every opportunity to make it happen. He scrimped and he saved and he planned. However, through events beyond his control and unforeseen circumstances and obligations, George Bailey never did go to college, or travel the world, or become a great explorer. He stayed in Bedford Falls. He ran his father's business he was trying so desperately to leave. He married and had a family. It wasn't what he had planned. He felt he had tried his best, and lost his dreams. He felt he'd done everything good and right, but was still losing in the end. He felt that the world would've been better had he never been born. However, when his wish was granted and he was shown what the lives of the people he loved, the town he served, would've been like without his influence, it turned out that George Bailey had made a difference - but in effect - his life had turned out exactly how it was SUPPOSED to - even though he thought that it wasn't what he'd wanted. Even though he had planned differently.
"Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" remarked Clarence - George's guardian angel.
The part that taught me this year was George Bailey realizing that though his dreams he thought he always wanted hadn't panned out - that he'd been on the cusp of what he thought he'd wanted - what he thought would make him happy - wasn't what was meant for him at all. That perhaps, there was a very different plan for him. A better plan. Something more than what he dreamed. This year - watching that movie - talking to Nick - and reevaluating what's really important to me and what really DOES matter in the world - made me realize that it really is a wonderful life we are given. It's something that we can share with others - and create real meaning in their lives. Feeling useful, feeling like you MAKE a difference, would be more meaningful than any material Christmas present I could ever receive.