Getting into the holiday spirit has been — to say the least — challenging this year. The weather has been bizarre in New York City. Instead of flurries in the air, there is fear and palpable anxiety. Many people are visibly skittish, suspicious of one another in the subways; I count myself among them, scanning for potential signs of impending disaster, thinking always about Paris and San Bernardino, wondering when and where the next tragedy will strike.
On a more personal note, this is the first Christmas I'll spend without my father, and there's a bubble of dread inside my chest that I'm worried will explode sometime around December 25. Given the authority, I would happily just cancel the remainder of 2015 and dig into the new year without lingering on festivities.
And yet. Something about grief and ominous headlines makes me want more than ever to seek out the good in things. I find myself savoring kind encounters with strangers, and trying to connect meaningfully with the people I'm around every day. It has dawned on me that I'm actively searching for cheer — the smallest, sparkling scraps of it — wherever it might be hiding. Most recently, I traced it to a West Village cinema, during a showing of the 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life.
Somehow, this award-winning movie has never come up in my various streaming queues. (In my family, Gone With the Wind is our holiday film of choice.) But with 28 winters behind me, I decided that this was the year I would finally watch Jimmy Stewart discover the meaning of Christmas. In case you're as unfamiliar as I was, It's a Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey (Stewart), a man beset by existential crisis. George embodies the definition of righteousness: He's just good, in a heartwarming and oftentimes self-defeating way. He's the sort of person you root for — as well as the kind you ache for when he's down.