This is the fourth time that I have tried to write this article – just get it out of my system. It’s not easy being a columnist, especially when you write about things as personal as yourself. If you have a queasy feeling about ‘personal things’, now would be a good time to just turn the page and read what others think.
“What if I had never been born?” Good question, seldom wished or entertained in a serious vein. It all started last week when I viewed again (7th time) the ageless motion picture with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. This 1946 film is shown every year around Christmas time. The plot is simple – a poor boy against the rich man, right against wrong, truth against error. The director, Frank Capra, must have really known he had a winner when it was filmed, cut and produced.
A good rather young family man operated a Savings and Loan business. Because he was unselfish and generous, a housing project was filled with folks who could not otherwise afford a home of their own. All went well until a trusted older relative and employee lost a large sum of money. Bankruptcy was the only alternative. But wait, Jimmy was insured for a bunch, and suicide seemed to be the best solution.
You know by now, the many tears you have shed watching this dramatic fantasy, that an angel (Clarence) was dispatched to be his guardian. Clarence jumped in the river, claimed to be drowning, and Jimmy saved him. The key to this wonderful movie was when Jimmy said, “I wish I had never been born”. That wish was granted and everything changed. Like all fantasies, it ended well with all the debtors chipping in with more than enough money to replace the stolen money and avoid bankruptcy and jail. The last scene closed when all were singing, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind”.
I clicked off the T. V. and cut off the lights, dried my tears and began my own inquiry to the central question, “What if I had never been born?” I would never have known my Mother and Dad, my six brothers and sisters, Grandpa and Mama Selley. Nashville, Tennessee would have one less statistic. Although, having been reared in Miami, Florida, back in the 30‘s and 40‘s, and having experienced the hardship of poverty, I was blessed with a love of life and a great family. Teddy was my best friend in the third grade. He was a dwarf with a huge mound of shoulder that rose above his head. He had polio. Little did I know that our middle son would fight his way through that disease and be confined to a wheelchair all his life.
If I had never been born, I would not have known the greatest person of my life. She is the most beautiful, most wonderful friend that I have ever known. She is my wife, Ann, the mother of our 6 children, grandmother of 16 and great grandmother of 6. We were married as teenagers 54 years ago.
Our lives have found their place in the work of 27 countries. She has been the marvelous editor of all 39 of my published books, a true critic of my long play albums, my audios and videos. These 74 years have been filled with victories and defeats, tears, patience, wisdom, weaknesses, hours of prayer, foolishness, calls for forgiveness, holidays, songs, friends, times of worship, periods of growth, fun, corrections, funerals of close loved ones and friends, and an endless struggle of all the in-be-tweens – None would have ever happened if I had not been born. It is somewhat regrettable, that some who read this column have not had the time or the courage to research the answer to this most important and personal question.
Solomon, the wise King, wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “There is a time to be born, and a time to die . . . to plant and a time to pull up plants . . . A time to kill and a time to heal . . . To destroy and build . . . To cry and laugh . . .A time to be sad and a time to dance with joy . . .To throw weapons down and pick them up . . . A time to hug someone and a time to stop holding them so tightly . . . to keep things and to throw things away . . . to be silent and to speak . . . a time to love and a time to hate . . . A time to make war and a time to make peace.”
I know now why no one has ever written on this intimate subject. It is always a risk to think about yourself, much less to put your thoughts into print. Now is an excellent time for you to take such a journey. Go back to the beginning of your own life and allow the mind to work its way through the many years that you have lived. Recall the intimate events, the tender moments, the victories and defeats. The special events will flash through your mind and the forgiving heart that has made it all possible for you to be the sweet person you are. Take time, see it all in review, you too may declare, “It’s been A Wonderful Life”.