I was one of the thousands of travelers stranded after the winter storms grounded the flights this year. After hours of disappointments and dashed hopes, I ended up in an airport hotel room, eating ramen alone on Christmas Eve.
This was a less than idyllic situation, and my attitude reflected the moment.
In the absence of anything else festive about the evening, I decided to see if there was a good Christmas movie to watch on TV. Luckily for me, the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life had just started. It had been years since I’d seen it, so I settled in with my cup noodle to give it another watch.
If you are unfamiliar with the story, *spoiler alert*, the story is about a man named George Bailey who suffers a financial misfortune that leads him to believe that he is “worth more to his family dead than alive”. This thought, and the seeming impossibility of his situation, brings him to a snowy bridge on Christmas Eve, contemplating jumping into the icy depths below.
At that moment, he sees someone else already struggling in the water. Being faced with another’s distress, George leaps into the water to save the drowning man. The man turns out to be his guardian angel who — in response to Georges’ wish that “he had never been born” — offers him the opportunity to see the world without him in it.
The rest of the movie is the exploration of a world without George and George’s eventual realization that life is worth living. For a film that was made over 75 years ago, the message is unexpectedly profound and timely.
Because even today, an unfortunate reality is that the rates of suicide attempts and completions rise during the holidays. For those who are struggling or lonely, the holiday season can highlight the disconnect they feel from friends, family, and purpose.
As I watched this movie, I wondered how many of us really take the time to reflect on the impact we have made and do make on the world. Thinking on this movie, two things stood out to me:
One, that George was so close to his pain of recent failure that he was unable to see his lifetime of positive impacts that he had made. His parents, his friends, his wife, his children, and his community were all profoundly positively impacted by his presence in their lives. One man made all the difference in their world.
Two, that George saved his own life when he decided to save another. Feeling a lack of connection is one of the risk factors for a sense of hopelessness and loss of a will to live. Giving to others can reignite a sense of purpose and meaning in a dark time. Being a helping hand in the darkness might help pull you out of your own.
On this Christmas morning, why not take a moment to reflect on your life’s impact. I encourage you to think of the random and esoteric moments as well: the moments you let someone in line in front of you so they could catch their flight, the moments you chose to help a stranger out with a bag they were struggling with, the moment you listened to a waitress in a bar tell you about her Christmas memories of her late husband, the fleeting moments of common humanity that you were a part of.
It’s easy to forget these little moments, but there are hundreds of thousands of points of connection you have made over the years. The ripples of your life reverberate through the lives of others. You matter more than you know.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts:
Text HOME to 741–741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day.
Text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org.
If this is a medical emergency or there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.
https://jedfoundation.org/resource/what-to-do-when-youre-feeling-hopeless-or-thinking-about-suicide/ — Kristal DeSantis, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional is the author of STRONG: A Relationship Field Guide for the Modern Man (available for pre-order now www.strong.love) Follow my instagram @atxtherapist | Facebook @strongloveatx | TikTok @atx_therapist