Cherish this Holiday Season

It seems every year Thanksgiving and Christmas come faster and faster. I think the older we get, the more used to the length of a year we become. Kind of like the return drive on a long trip often seems shorter than the initial drive. Our minds tell us that the trip was so long, and being creatures of pessimism, we anticipate the return trip to be longer than it really is.

Such as with life. How often, students, do you put off that paper because you have an entire week to get it done? Or husbands, how many months go by before we actually fix the furnace? Just look at how big your kids are, if you want me to get to the point.

I recently read a little play by Thornton Wilder called Our Town. It is a very haunting account of this very discussion. The Pulitzer prize winning play is simple enough on the surface, but if one is really paying attention, one will be almost terrified of what Wilder is trying to tell us in his play.

And that is simply: Life is fleeting. Enjoy it now while you can.

One needs also to read through Lamentations or almost any other wisdom book of the Bible to get a clue that this is no joke. Time flies, and may I add: whether you’re having fun or not.

So as you gather around the Thanksgiving table with your family – whether you like them or not – I want to challenge you to really take the time to relax, breathe, and live a little in the life you’ve been given. Enjoy your families, regardless of the circumstances. One day Uncle Fred or Grandma or Dad aren’t going to be sitting at that seat, and you’ll miss them.

If you feel that the holiday season has become mundane, soak it in anyway, because one day, you’ll look back on it all and miss it. And if you do this, your attitude will change.

I dreaded taking the dogs out to do their business four to five times a day. But after reading Our Town, I stopped and reflected on the fact that one day they’ll be too old to go down the stairs by themselves and I’ll have to carry them, recalling these days – these days – of their mobile youth. So I stopped pestering them to “Go potty!” and just let them take their time and allow them to enjoy the cool air and bark at the squirrels.

If you’re like me and hate shopping, go with your spouse anyway this Christmas season, and have fun. Don’t throw a fit, or pout, because one day, you’ll regret soiling would-be sweet memories. Take in every moment – the good and mundane – fix the bad ones, and don’t continue to leave behind regrets of lost memories.

I’ll leave you now with a chilling passage from the third and final act of Our Town. Emily, the young, hopeful bride from the preceding act has died and is in the grave observing a very dull day in her early life as Scrooge does in his own harrowing visions.

Emily - I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another.

She breaks down sobbing…

Emily (cont.) - I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back – up the hill – to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover’s Corners… Mama and Papa. Good-by to the clocks ticking… and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths… and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.

She looks toward the stage manager and asks abruptly, through her tears:

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute?

Stage Manager - No.

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Summer Movies

I have a few weird habits concerning my movie collection. First, I alphabetize my DVDs. I’m sure that’s one of those things that’s weird, but common. Second, I categorize them into Drama, Action/adventure, Comedy, and animated in four different cabinets throughout our loft (and of course a special shelf that exclusively displays my Pixar movies). Now, that’s getting a little weirder. But wait – there’s more! The weirdest thing I do is watch my movies seasonally. Most people have regular movies, and Christmas movies. I divide mine up into Christmas, winter, spring, and fall movies. Quirky, I know. I just can’t watch White Fang when it’s 98 degrees out, you know?

So with that said, I’ve just pulled out all of my Summer movies that we’ll be watching in the next few months and I realized that most of them have a recurring theme (no, this was not intentional). Most people have common themes that run through their DVD and book collections. For some, their themes might be romance, and finding your true love (Never Been Kissed, 10 Things I Hate About You, Bridgett Jones’s Diary). For others it might be the idea that death and blood and gore are glorified elements (Halloween, Freddy, Walking Dead). For many, the theme is mindless (and sometimes funny) 90-minute breaks from reality (Dumb and Dumber, Anchorman, Monty Python).

The theme for our Summer movie lineup, I discovered, is redemption. Bellow are films I highly recommend if you’re browsing through Netflix and just need to be inspired to get off your chair and do something meaningful for others and your family. Feel free to recommend some of your own. Enjoy!

The Last Samurai

I remember years ago when I saw the poster for this movie hanging up in the hallway of the movie theater, I thought instantly, “That has got to be a joke.” Tom Cruise as a Samurai warrior… really? But this film wows me the more times I see it. Though my wife and I quibble over the validity of this film’s origins, it is a wonderful reminder that no no matter how far we’ve sunk, how far we’ve fallen, or whatever we’ve done, there is always a reason to redeem yourself and a chance to start your life anew.

The Majestic

Say what you will about Jim Carrey, but he really does pull himself together for this one. It’s a perfect film to celebrate 4th of July or Memorial Day. This film is a testament to why we should stand up for what we believe in and not be so pacifistic as many of us have become. It reminds us that our freedom came at a very high cost and that there is shame in shrugging it off as no big deal. Our country was worth the fight, and if we agree, we will show a little more respect toward it.

Sweet Home Alabama

I’m not much into romantic comedies at all, and this movie is hardly a funny, though it is lighthearted. I appreciate this movie so much because it defends the honor and integrity of marriage. The main characters have been trying for a divorce for many years, but something in them just won’t let them go through with it, even if it means ditching the new boyfriend. Marriages are worth fighting for, and this movie shows that it’s not easy, but the rewards can be great.

Cinderella Man

Whenever you put Russell Crow and Ron Howard together, you’re in for a great time. Not great time as in, escapism. But more like, getting to see a movie for what, I believe, movies are meant to be made for – documenting the lives of otherwise overlooked, great personalities in our world’s history. Cinderella Man is a fine film that does just that. Our country is headed toward hard times, and this is a great film for fathers and husbands to see to give them a picture of how a real man handles difficult times.

The Sandlot

This is an oldie, but very much a goodie. And yes, the 4th of July scene with the fireworks makes me cry every time. With all this talk about putting a stop to bullying these days, this is a great film for kids to watch as it shows that we can’t expect to change society to accommodate our insecurities, but we must be willing to adapt to some surroundings if we want to be accepted into a group. Show ‘em what you’re made of and you’ll earn their respect.

Other redemptive movies: Finding Neverland, A League of Their Own, A Beautiful Mind, Finding Nemo, Cars

Image credits: Last Samurai, The Majestic, Sweet Home Alabama, Cinderella Man, The Sandlot

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