35 Is it a Wonderful Life?

When I was a freshman in college – 1972-’73 school year – I had this quote posted on the wall in my dorm room:

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said,

but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

(Years later, I found out it was attributed to children’s books author and illustrator Robert McCloskey.)

Prominently displayed amidst pictures of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models and some blacklight posters, it was viewed as Orwellian double-speak by some, totally misunderstood by others, but made sense to a few. Needless to say, it sparked numerous conversations… But, mainly it served as a reminder for me to Listen to what others were saying – to not get ahead of myself and be thinking about what I wanted to say before they were finished talking, as well as to be clear in what I said – to say what I meant and to mean what I said…

I had learned that choosing our words – both verbal and written – was the key to real communication – and along with tone and body language, could change an “argument” into a “discussion”. Of course, I had also learned that my/our words can be used to help, to hurt, to belittle, to intimidate, to motivate, to convince, as well as disguise the intended message. I could, and did, use my words in each of those contexts. I’m not proud of the fact that I deliberately caused another to feel “less than” – that I often times had said/wrote something to make me feel superior in some way – and Justified it within my own mind – and repeated such behavior for years.

I hadn’t thought of this quote for a long time until in a recent situation where something that was said triggered a reaction – then, a follow-up comment was totally and completely misinterpreted due to still being within that reactive state. So, I was looking at situations where I had done this – which, admittedly, was many times – when this familiar quote came to mind.

A little later, I had turned on the tv as I was on my way to the kitchen to fix some dinner so I could hear the weather report for the next day – I knew it would be coming on in a little while. Not surprisingly, It’s a Wonderful Life, the classic Christmas movie, was playing for the umpteenth time this year. I always liked James Stewart (after all, both my parents liked him.  lol )   Couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the movie – but it’s a lot…  It was at the part where Clarence tells George what a great gift he had been given – to see what things would have been like if he hadn’t been born – so George could see the impact his life had had on so many others. And, I thought, indeed, what a Gift that would be. Unfortunately, none of Us will receive That gift until after we Die – after we cross over and go through our Death Process and our Life Review, where we will see who we were within every memory of our entire lifetime.

However, we can, in This life, have a look at our interactions with others – in self-honesty – and review for our self how we have influenced the lives of others, even in the little, seemingly insignificant moments. Did I really Listen to the words of another, and Hear the meaning of what they’re trying to say? Did I allow myself to go into a reactive state about something that I heard, or read, and Miss part of the message? Did I speak clearly enough so that the listener Understood what I was trying to say? Did I use my words to assist or uplift? Or, did I use my words to belittle or hurt? Was I open and honest, or closed minded and deceitful? Did I get all wrapped up in my ego of self-righteousness? Or, did I look upon every being that crossed my path as equal and one with me?

This is the Christmas season – the season of Giving – where many take to heart the words of Jesus: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – to Give as You would like to Receive (if You were in Their shoes). And while we can’t give everyone a gift that requires money being spent, we can gift ourselves to others – with kindness, attention, or simply acknowledgment – just as we each would like to receive – if we were in their shoes.. And, what if we carried this with us throughout the year – not just during the Christmas season?


James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Karolyn Grimes in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Is it a Wonderful Life? And is it Wonderful for All Life? It could be. It starts with us – with our words – not only within our expression of Who We Are in our interactions with others, but within our Own thoughts, as well…  And if we truly believe in that principle – to Give as We would like to Receive – then the only way this can truly BE a Wonderful Life, is When it IS Wonderful – for All Life….

Thanks for reading.

More to come….


SOUL –  The School of Ultimate Living is an online community of people interested in
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