The day after Thanksgiving, I watched my young cousins grab the sales circulars out of the newspaper and begin circling–with a Sharpie no less–the toys and games they wanted for Christmas. I couldn’t help but smile as they “shopped” and wished. Oh, but their joy and excitement was infectious.
Later, I happened to watch one of my favorite movies, Mr. Holland’s Opus. Some of you may recall the story of the music teacher who while teaching, tutoring, and helping to raise a deaf son, steals a minute here, a minute there to write his own American symphony, his opus, his gift to the world. As the years roll by, he becomes more and more frustrated that he is unable to devote unfettered time and effort to his dream. Finally, his last day of teaching arrives. On this day, we learn that it took his entire teaching career to finish his opus but more than that we learn that his true opus, his true gift to the world is the students he nurtured unselfishly during his 30-something years of teaching. Many of whom went on to become accomplished adults. As their gift to him for his love and sacrifice, his former students play the symphony he composed.
When the movie ended, I thought about these two seemingly unrelated events—the kids’ Christmas shopping and the movie—and discovered they are not unrelated.
For Christmas, I want a pair of new boots, and there’s a pair I’ve been price-watching for a few weeks now. But when I put my material wants aside and really think about what I want for Christmas it is to leave a positive legacy, to leave humanity better than when I was birthed into it.
I know this seems like such a lofty goal. At least it did to me when I first thought it, but then I rewound the movie in my head and realized it doesn’t take much to leave a positive gift to the world. Mr. Holland didn’t have millions of dollars. He wasn’t a genius nor did he have influence or access to the media. Mr. Holland simply extended himself. He did simple, ordinary things such as listen, share, give, advise, and follow his heart.
These are things I can do. I can judge writing contests and encourage young writers. I can challenge the kids’ thinking in my creative writing classes. I can donate a blanket or socks to a homeless mission. I can read to senior citizens at a nursing home. I can smile at a stranger or review a resume’ for a friend.
All of these SMALL, common things don’t require anything but my time and focus (and a little bit of money). But they are BIG at helping me get what I really want for Christmas–a positive legacy.
Yes, I am still going to get those boots but while I’m out shopping, I’ll give, share, listen, laugh, but most of all…I’ll follow my heart.
What about you? What do you want for Christmas? No, what do you really want?