Don’t worry, I am not planning my death or anything crazy like that.
In It’s a Wonderful Life, we spend the first two acts getting to know George Bailey. He grows up in a small town of no real consequence. He has loving parents, and a brother, he is friendly, loyal, honorable, part of a local community, and is bent on seeing the world. But, life takes some twists and turns he did not expect. Instead of traveling the world, he marries, takes over a business he does not want (his father’s Savings and Loan), has a few kids, builds homes for others, and does his darndest to keep the local baddie at bay. He has some friends and life is okay. Until something terrible happens, and he effectively wishes he were dead, or had never been born. The third act of the movies shows us what life would be like in his small town had he never been born. Life is ugly without him in Bedford Falls. A measuring stick was held up to his life when the townsfolk started to show up to help him out of his crisis. George needed that angel to show him that alternate reality to help George to understand what his life has meant to others. George definitely made a difference and it showed.
Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder if I died, who would show up at my funeral? How would I be eulogized? What would people say to those closest to me in an attempt to comfort them? I used to have a morbid fascination with this idea because for a time I felt that no one would show up. I felt lonely and afraid that I would die alone and unnoticed. I struggled with invisibility (and often still do) and felt disconnected. I really wanted connections in my life so people would show up at my funeral. Initially, my motives were selfish. I wanted people to care about me enough to care about my death.
God does not like selfishness. He likes selflessness.
Forging lifelong friendships is a long and difficult process fraught with danger and pain. There were some relationships that were toxic, some that just ended, and some that kept going. The friendships that kept going were eventually based on a mutual exchange of time, trust, and energy. At some point, this process became less about what I could get from others, and became more about what I could give. A bowl of soup here, a friendly and kind word there, a much needed moment of free childcare, some empathetic tears, a hug, a kiss, a little cash, trusted advice, helped others to know their worth to me. And I receive these things in return and can feel my worth to those people. The Holy Spirit gives us energy to maintain relationships with others because He desires an exchange of love between Him, us, and others, above all things. Relationships matter. Jesus said that the world would know us by our “love for one another” and that “no love greater is this; that he would lay his life down for his friends”. Having friends is not really about what you can get from others, it’s about what you can give to others. It’s about offering yourself, your gifts, your wisdom, your time, and your energy to other’s benefit. The more you pour out, the more is poured into you.
I have many people that I love dearly outside of my little family. Let’s cross that out; these people are my family. I rejoice that these people are my brothers and my sisters. They really care about me, and I really care about them.
To quote Clarence the angel, “…no man is a failure who has friends.”
Would love to hear your thoughts here….