12 Days Before Christmas

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Tucked away on the ground floor of a modern mall in one of Hanoi’s several upscale leafy neighborhoods recently I watched Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life again and yes, I cried – again.

At one point while watching this 1946 classic black and white version of Depression-era America I turned and shared a hankie with a sniveling French Canadian who was experiencing Clarence getting his wings for the first time.

As the lights came on I heard an interpretation of the film that, not for the first time, raised my eyebrows: ‘It’s a very Christian movie’, said a Japanese born designer who spent two decades in New York City. “You know, angels and all that.”

“I think of American charity, optimism and sacrificing for community” I offered, unsure if Frank Capra’s holiday classic could be defined by anyone, including the writers of ‘the good book’. Film-making is a crap shoot and I doubt Capra or the cast imagined they were making an American classic during film production… but then again, who knows? And that’s one of the mysteries of life: when do we ever really know what we do makes a difference in someone’s life?

So today as I begin counting down the 12 days before Christmas I’m thinking about what the Japanese designer said in a new light: what does it matter if Christianity, Islam, Judaism or any other religion that features angels inspire charitable characters in a film or our daily lives? I’d rather be inspired by kindness, charity and joy than, well, the other options.

With that in mind, I’d like to share 12 kind moments in 2014 that (without naming names) made a difference in my life – and for those shared moments I am most grateful:

  1. Receiving a photograph of a wintry scene in Germany that recalls a quieter, peaceful time.
  2. Hearing encouragement from a fellow writer during a moment of fear.
  3. Seeing a friend’s toddler turn into a young person embracing life’s daily joys.
  4. Reaching out to a lonely and frightened parent who expresses happiness, not resentment, in return.
  5. Comforting a friend who just lost his parents and hearing the life come back into his voice.
  6. Sharing relief when someone takes account and walks away from a harmful path.
  7. Joining with others who care – about everything.
  8. Receiving a Twitter slap and learning from it.
  9. Watching Wall Street respond to creative and well designed global initiatives to save the planet – instead of leaving it.
  10. Laughing at and sharing a choice political cartoon, hoping it makes a difference.
  11. Learning from the talented and courageous among us, including journalists and photographers in war zones.
  12. Experiencing peace and forgiveness.

Wishing you all the very best for 2015.

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