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Thoughts on a ‘wonderful life’

The following headlines appeared in a local paper on Dec. 18: “Local first responders set for mass fatality training class;” “14 year old girls arraigned in fatal stabbing;” “Student safety on minds of local officials.”
These follow the tragic stories out of Newtown, Conn., where so many innocent lives were lost in one of the largest school shootings in the nation.
Recently, I attended a terrific play at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre called “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
If sometime during your life you had to walk all the way over to the TV to change a channel, you have probably seen the movie on which the play is based.
It’s an old black-and-white film that carries a story we all need to hear today and every day, especially after Newtown.
It tells of a man (George Bailey) with great plans who gave them up to help others.
Then a major error brought him into depression and caused him to believe the world would have been better off without him.
It then chronicles his life showing him that, like all of us, his life is important and how his history was woven into the lives of many others and made them better.
But the George Bailey ideal in media has been tossed away as old-fashioned, out of style. New movies showing a murder a minute are now the norm.
Likewise, realistic violent video games, where you can make decisions on what your character will do and who he or she will “kill” are top sellers. In fact, seven out of the top 10 selling Xbox 360 games were defined as “first or third person shooter” games.
Studies show that teens who focus their attention on violent video games for extended periods of time “tend to be more aggressive, more prone to confrontation with their teachers, may engage in fights with their peers, and see a decline in school achievements.”
It has also been noted that the shooter in Newtown played violent video games frequently, as did others in the past tragedies.
In contrast, in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” as a friend of mine noted, director Frank Capra shows us we’re all in this together and we all have the potential to matter and make all our lives better.
George failed to sense that which we all too often overlook as well.
He failed to sense that he could be truly loved without ever knowing it. He failed to understand the true value of his own life, that you can touch the hearts of others, affect their lives and their self worth, and never realize the strength of a kind word, or a few cents “loaned” to another in need.
There is no simple solution to stop future “Newtowns.”
It seems to me, however, we can begin by sitting at the dinner table as a family and focusing on reminding our children and ourselves that every life matters; and that we have the power to make this a better place.
From there, it will expand to the community and beyond.
The great philosopher Yogi Barra once noted, “Whatever we focus our attention on will grow stronger in our life.”
I think he had something there.