Monday, December 21, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life
By Brenda Black

On one day, two men entered my life and I was singularly changed by their impact. The first appeared to be impoverished. He wore a ragged wool coat and a soiled grey shirt and tattered jeans. Thick, scratched and smudged glasses hugged his weathered cheeks as if they feared falling from his face. The second stranger approached me with a quick step that matched his snappy dress. He was as clever and articulate as the former was fumbling and repetitive. I met two men, I heard one message from God.

Thousands of people passed by the promotional booth I manned. Hundreds stopped to purchase a product or ask me questions. I saw rich, plain, tan and toned, flabby, friendly, grumpy and fancy folks. But those two – well, I remember their faces.

With stammering speech he shared his dream with me, the first stranger. He pulled from his coat pocket a roll of cherished papers. After he perused the clean white pages of my brand new book, he unfurled his faded and stained manuscript and told me he was a writer as well. I read some of his poems carefully crafted by a manual typewriter; I couldn't tell how many years prior. He relished my genuine interest. He shared his hopes for publishing them one day and tapped his rough, dirty finger against the page, while he emphasized what God had taught when he first praised the Lord with his clever prose.

I couldn't tell whether his plans were reality or a dream never conceived. Some of his claims seemed far-fetched. He told me one of his poems hangs in the nation's capitol and no president dares take it off the wall. I doubted that he had the means to complete his apparently long-awaited pursuit. But he never knew my reservations. I patiently listened while he shared his creative process. I grasped his hand and shook it heartily, telling him it was my pleasure to visit with him and meet such an accomplished author. I meant it. He smiled widely, revealing tarnished teeth. With a tear in his eye, he thanked me profusely for talking to him like I had done some remarkable feat.

I nearly cried, thinking after he departed, that maybe no one acknowledges him on any given day. He might feel invisible to the masses that never make eye contact with him or read his works, if indeed they are his. But for a moment, I had the pleasure of being my Lord's hands and heart and I saw this man as he wanted to be known, as a fellow writer full of promise and talent.

In a far briefer moment, the small, neatly attired second stranger popped into my booth like a prairie dog pops from his den. In a matter of seconds, he was gone. Then back again. We had only spoken a smattering of words, but I have no idea how long he had been watching me handle the hoards of people that ebbed and flowed in and out of my zone. I was stunned when he spun and returned with outstretched hand and said, “You have a delightful personality and your smile is engaging. You are perfect for this and I pray God blesses your work.” I was overwhelmed and felt like I was in the presence of Second Class Angel, Clarence, from “It's a Wonderful Life.” I hugged him and thanked him for his kindness. As quickly as he came, he vanished into the throng of people. His warmth and generosity toward me lingered like a special-delivery blessing straight from heaven.

What a contrast of circumstances and characters. What a wake-up call for my soul to remember that it always matters how you treat people because all people matter to God.

At some point during the Christmas season, I will watch again the Christmas classic “It's a Wonderful Life” and think back over my own years of existence. I'll wonder at the ever overlapping circles of events that sweetly complicate my world with thousands of acquaintances. I'll recall the times and places where God's hand altered events or surprised me with strangers and I'll be thankful to have participated. It truly is a wonderful life when you stop to count your blessings and when you take the time to be a blessing.

As Clarence says to George Bailey: “Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?”

As George realized he impacted others for good, he welcomed a life filled with treasures as well as troubles and said, “I want to live again. I want to live again. Please, God, let me live again.”

No matter your circumstances, whether impoverished or wealthy, whether hungry for attention or eager to give attention; God has a plan and a purpose for you each day of your wonderful life. Be his hands and feet and the bearer of peace at Christmas and always. You never know who needs your encouragement or who is watching.

**Touched by this story? Read more from Brenda in her new book “Were You Born in a Barn?” available online at -- order yours today.

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