EVERY DECEMBER, I watch two Christmas movies—movies I’ve been watching for as long as I can remember.
My favorite is A Christmas Carol, based on the novel by Charles Dickens. It’s about the mean and miserable Ebenezer Scrooge, a money lender who constantly bullies his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit, and rejects his nephew Fred’s wishes for a merry Christmas.
Scrooge lives only for money. He has no real friends or family, and cares only about his own well-being. As the story goes, on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts. They teach him about the Christmas spirit through visions of Christmases past, present and future. In each visit, he sees either the negative consequences wrought by his miserly nature or the good tidings that others bring about through their love and kindness.
Scrooge sees his future—dying alone with no one to mourn him. He has his money and his possessions, yes, but nothing else. He finally understands why qualities like generosity and love are some of the most important things in life.
He’s grateful when he realizes he has a chance to redeem himself and change his future. This is the important message conveyed by Dickens. If Scrooge can change and improve his future, then anyone can.
Dickens reminds us that we still have a last chance to be remembered as we would wish. But we need to start living that way today, while we still have the opportunity to change the direction of our lives.
Seven years ago, after being packaged off by my employer at age 59, I once again watched the movie while suffering from a bad case of retirement shock. I started to think deeply about what I wanted my life to look like, and what I needed to do to get there. Similar to Scrooge, I went through a journey of self-discovery. I, too, wanted my life to have a happy ending.
I began to think about what changes I needed to make to be happy. What kind of person did I need to become? What did I want to do and accomplish in the years ahead? How could I make a difference in the lives of others?
Reinventing yourself is hard work. It takes time and a fair amount of persistence, yet the payoff can be enormous. In my case, it was life-changing. Today, I feel a little like Scrooge on Christmas morning.
My second-favorite movie is It’s a Wonderful Life from director Frank Capra. One thing I learned from becoming a writer is that it’s hard to gauge the impact my work has on others. Sometimes, during a bad patch, I start doubting myself and wonder if all the hard work is worth it.
That’s why I enjoy this movie so much. It’s about a man who gets to see what his town would have been like if he’d never been born. It’s much worse off without him.
The movie is a reminder of how important our efforts are and how we can positively affect someone without knowing it. After watching it, my faith in what I’m doing is restored. I get back to work with both determination and a smile on my face.
Watching these movies has turned into an annual form of self-assessment for me. They make me think deeply about what’s important in my life and what’s not. They hold key life lessons that I value, and they remind me why I do the things that I do.