by Ginger Costen
I love this time of year when this crazy world seems to slow down a little and some members of the human race find a new sense of compassion toward their fellow man – or woman. I love the sparkle in the eyes of a child as they think about Santa Claus and the excitement of Christmas morning. I also love being able to cry during my favorite movie without having to explain why I’m watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” in the middle of July.
Yes, I love that sappy movie and play it whenever I question my purpose on this big blue planet; which seems to be happening on a regular basis these days. So as I begin my 62nd year kicking up dust on Mother Earth by placing the movie into the machine and reflecting back on a life that may or may not have been all that wonderful.
While I may have been born in December, there certainly weren’t three wise men rushing to my side with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Which, considering how it worked out for baby Jesus, it was probably a good thing. Who knows, there might have been a bright star shinning high within the night sky to show them the way. However, having been born in the middle of the San Fernando Valley in southern California, I doubt it would have been as easy to find amongst the light pollution from Hollywood. And, since I wasn’t born at night and Mom had a C-section in a clean, sterile hospital I guess we really can’t go any further with the similarities of my birth and those of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
So let’s see how I compare to George Bailey and the story line of the movie.
We weren’t part of a well known family but my father worked hard and my parents owned one of those tract homes that the fictional Bailey Savings and Loan helped to develop. Dad didn’t like his job and he hated living in a big city. Finally, after twelve years of marriage and two young children, he was just about to grab his chunk of the American Dream when a drunk driver took Wallis Raymond Sprague away from his family and a community of friends that continue to mourn his passing 53 years later.
He was a good and honest man who loved his family and even though his was a short journey, he managed to leave the world a better place because he lived a life that showed the value of responsibility, respect and appreciation for all of mankind. He also was not afraid to show his love and vulnerability and for that I am forever thankful for if nothing else, I know how wonderful it feels to be loved unconditionally for who and not what you are.
Being raised by a physically handicapped widow I certainly didn’t live an opulent childhood. My mother was one of the thousands of children to contract Polio when she was 10 years-old. Although she was given the best medical care, she still never walked again and spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Her doctors told her that she’d never have children but that didn’t stop my mother. In fact, there were a lot of “things” my mother was told she’d never do and she proved everyone wrong.
She graduated from college, worked a full-time job and was also active in her community. She helped at the USO during WWII where she met her first husband. He survived the Normandy invasion, but couldn’t survive the injuries he sustained when he was killed at the front of the Army base when his vehicle was also hit by a drunk driver.
Her life was marked by tragedy and physical pain but I never heard her ask for nor expect sympathy from anyone. She was a proud and strong woman when being such was not well received by the rest of the world. She may not have had the legs that would carry her along the path she was meant to live, but she did have more than enough love, compassion and dignity to walk miles around those who could.
Letha Virginia Gates Sprague was a Spirit-filled loving mother that had every right to feel sorry for herself but she lived her life filled with awe and wonder at all that was and not in regret with what was not. And for that I am forever thankful for my own spiritual strength, joy for living and ability to bloom where I am planted.
Was the world a better place because Wallis and Letha were born? I’d have to say yes and not because without them I wouldn’t have December 4th to call a birthday. It’s a better place because both of them touched lives far beyond my own. While their grandchildren and great-grandchildren may never have known them, they know of their morals, values, love and determination.
They’ve learned to worship God because from Him you find the strength and moral compass to live a life filled with purpose and kindness. They’ve learned to find joy, beauty and appreciation in all that you are given and even when you don’t have enough, you probably have more than you need.
So we’re now at the part in the movie where Jimmy Stewart realizes he had a wonderful life and Clarence the Angel gets his wings… and that’s the part I love the best. “Listen Daddy,” Zuzu (Stewart’s youngest daughter) says on Christmas Eve as she puts a jingle bell on the tree. “Teacher says every time you hear a bell ring, an Angel gets its wings.”
It’s time to go and put bells on our Christmas tree while I thank God for giving me all the Angels in my life and for even more importantly, giving this undeserving world one very special baby.