As we approach Christmas and the holiday season for so many faiths, many of us take time to reflect on our year, our life and our relationships. We examine what it all means and what we have to be thankful for. As I pause on this year, and sit in my home in Austin, Texas, near a lit Christmas tree with ornaments hung by my daughter, I recall the movie "It's a Wonderful Life."
This beautiful and touching Frank Capra film tells the story of George Bailey, who is shown by his rumpled guardian angel Clarence what life would have been like had he never been born. And George is able to see how much his life mattered and the profound positive effect he had on all the people around him. And in seeing this he realizes his heart is full no matter the position he holds or how wealthy he is or whether he was ever able to take that exotic vacation.
I look back on my life and see the people who had an incredible impact on me, and I think about what my life would have been like without those people in it. From my parents who imparted a great set of values I still hold close to my brothers and sisters who kept and keep me grounded and gave me a tribe in the tough times, to teachers who inspired a search for knowledge and to the paramedic who held my hand on a transport helicopter after I got in a snowmobile accident and broke five ribs.
As well as to my two ex-wives who I still care about greatly who shared moments along the way and who provided the world with children who I can't see living without and who have taught me each day to live more from my heart than from my head, to President Bush who I had a public break with but who gave me a chance to test my abilities on such a grand scale, and to so many others.
I wouldn't be the man I am today without these and many more. I have had great wins and suffered losses throughout my years, and each has made me a better man. I am blessed and grateful for everyone that has come into my life whether for a day or a season or a lifetime. I didn't always recognize it at the time, but see more clearly today the effect one individual can have on another's life.
And as I review the landscape of the world I think what would South Africa or the world have been like if Nelson Mandela had never been born. What would have America been like and where would it be today if Abraham Lincoln never existed. How many lives did Mother Theresa, who lifted up so many, touch? And all the teachers and nurses and cooks and day care providers who every day lift so many to a better place, including their families for which they build homes in all corners of our country.
This year I am reminded of how important an individual life is. Whether you agree or disagree with him, Edward Snowden's single action made us all look again at the balance between national security and our privacy. Mandela's death is a reminder of the power of one person to bring profound positive change to the world. The Bat Kid in San Francisco, who caused an entire country to stand still and see the power of one small gesture. All of these and more tell us that no matter how complicated, complex and detached our world seems to be, that the authentic actions of one person can change the circles of many lives.
And so I pause, looking at my own, the way George Bailey looked at his, and hoping that I, too, with all my flaws and mistakes, have lived a life that has touched others. But just as important I scan the landscape of my own journey and acknowledge the incredible impact so many folks have had on my life. And I look at the world and review the well-known and the unknown individuals who rose up their families and communities to a better place. And for that I am blessed and say thank you with incredible gratitude.
Who in your life or in the world can you name as those who have lived a powerful life of great success by touching you or others? Take a moment and give a shout out even in the confines or your own living room at this holiday time.
There you have it.