George Bailey : [George hears a train whistle] There she blows. You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?
Uncle Billy : Uh huh. Breakfast is served; lunch is served; dinner…
George Bailey : No no no no. Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.
– Scene from It’s a Wonderful Life
I’m eager to get back out in the world again. That’s no secret to readers of this blog. And really, I could go at any time now. But this is a time of graduations and funerals postponed while the pandemic was raging. Of catching up with people you haven’t seen face-to-face for a long time. And celebrating the freedom that comes with being fully vaccinated even as we remember what we lost along the way.
“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” – Og Mandino
I’m not the sort to walk away from people. I see a lot of myself in George Bailey. I don’t subscribe to the concept of “ghosting” someone. I check in on the neighbors, friends and relatives and generally hold things together, remaining available for those who want or need to reach out. And this works out to be a richer life for having done so. The trade-off in time to explore the unknown remains in my mind even as I embrace the moments with connections.
Connections… You’ve gotten better at them over the years, but that cold stoic exterior is tough to penetrate. You learn to drop it and get busy living as life progresses. As you recognize that moments are fleeting and people come and go from your circle.
We’ve only just begun to know each other, really, when they announce that it’s last call. Do you want that last conversation you might ever have with a person to be a checkbox of bland “how’s it going?” questions or a deeper dive into the soul of the person you’re engaged with? There are two ways to ask that question: the surface level way and the grab you by the hands, look squarely in your eyes and mean it way.
This world wants to divide us. It wants to cancel people, categorize people, shun those with differing opinions. We all tell ourselves stories, and we all wonder what the hell that other person is thinking when they expose their beliefs. Who’s right?
Who cares? We aren’t going to get anywhere in this world if we don’t start living empathically and seeking to understand the underlying story that frames someone’s worldview. For the world to progress, we must learn to see past the party affiliations, nationality, skin color, orientation and generational biases and learn to connect human-to-human. For we might never have this opportunity to engage with each other again.
Worldview… How do you gain a bigger worldview if you don’t get out and see the world? Well, maybe by taking smaller bites. Human-to-human interaction instead of continent-to-continent leaping. At least for now. He said. Convincingly. And wrote a poem to boil all these words down into 23. For George. But also for me:
So, my friend
I know I keep asking,
“when are we going?”
but, you know
what I really meant was,
“how’s it going?”