I'm finding myself in an interesting position this Thanksgiving. Still out of work. Into month #7 without full-time employment. Struggling financially. Bracing for a rather lean Christmas. Tiring of the job-hunt and all its frustrations.
Days marked by worry, insomnia, poor eating, listlessness, stress.
And yet I'm finding things to be grateful for.
Or maybe it's someOne offering gentle reminders of things to be grateful for.
I have been the recipient, along this journey of the jobless, of many happy occurrences that I call George Bailey Moments.
George Bailey, as you may or may not recall, is the everyman hero in the Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life, which, I may as well mention, is my favorite film of all time. Yes, above Jaws, above To Kill a Mockingbird, above Fantasia, above Singin' in the Rain.
At the climax of the film, George breaks through his crushing despondency by realizing a very powerful truth. You see, through all the prior history covered in the movie--taking George from a youth to a middle-aged husband and father--he makes sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice. He subverts dream after dream for his family, shunting aside his youthful aspirations of grandeur.
And he falls prey to the notion that along the way, as he's put all his goals on ice, that nobody has noticed. Not a single soul appreciates his continual acts of selflessness, whether they resulted from sheer altruism or forced by circumstance.
He suffers in silence. Or so he thinks.
But on Christmas Eve, at the bottom of a very deep pit in which he finds himself, George is shown that despite his conviction that the world doesn't care a fig for his problems, in reality, his situation is quite the opposite.
Mary, his wife, cares. His kids care. His mother cares. Mr. Martini, who he helped out of a slum, cares. Mr. Gower, the druggist he saved from committing a terrible accident, cares. Bert the cop. Ernie the taxi driver. Uncle Billy. Brother Harry. They all care.
And in the tearful final moments of the movie, George knows that despite his constant struggles and his meager income and his battered car and threadbare suits and drafty house, he is, in fact, "...the richest man in town."
His friends show him that. His friends, with whom no man is a failure.
And so I find that lesson hitting home hard this holiday. I have known failure. I've shaken its hand numerous times over the past seven months. But I also have friends--and family--that have led me to a number of George Bailey Moments. And I am thankful for them.
Oh, how I am thankful.
The various "families" in my life have shown great concern and bountiful compassion: my close-friend family, my dog-class family (human and canine), my church family, my family of former colleagues and professional contacts, my neighborhood family, my extended blood-relation family (cousins and aunts), my college-friends family, my cyber-family.
Even a hodgepodge family of total strangers who have touched me with a kind word or an unexpected smile when I really really needed one.
I am especially appreciative of my nearest-dearest family, the one under my own roof. It has been a long row to hoe, finding my way back to full employment, and it's not over yet. And they have been with me every step of the way. They have endured my impatience, my depression, my tears, my dashed hopes, my laziness (especially with housework), my boredom, my frustrations. They have seen me be scattered, unfocused, and slipshod. They have ridden this horrible roller coaster out of necessity, not out of choice, and all along the way, they continue to accept, support, love, and nurture me.
Especially my spouse. Eileen and I are approaching 25 years of marriage; our silver anniversary is May 21, 2013. Each day through that quarter century, she has remained true to the vow to love me in good times and in bad.
Particularly the bad. If on some cosmic beach somewhere there are footprints in the sand where the Lord carries me through the difficulties of life, mine are the combined tracks of Eileen carrying me while the Lord carries her.
So I raise a glass this Thanksgiving to all those families. And am deeply grateful for the George Bailey Moments they provide me.
By all them--all you--I am blessed.
For all them--all you--I am thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!