Zach Leiter '21
Recently, I had occasion to rewatch that great Christmas classic: Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. If you haven’t seen it, you absolutely should, because while it does watch like a movie from 1946—the strange pastel colorization, the long steady camera shots—it’s a wonderful movie. Through the lens of angelic visions, the movie follows George Bailey, a small town sweetheart and moneylender, in his fight to fend off the greedy hands of the conniving Mr. Potter. Just when George’s life is on the brink—he’s seemingly lost his business and his freedom, and desires more than the simple life he has—Clarence, an angel, is sent to show George Bailey the effect his actions have on those around him. The angel shows George a world where he never existed, the plot hits a second climax, and you’ll have to watch the movie for yourself.
“Strange, isn't it,” the angel Clarence tells George at one point. “Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?” In the book Clarence gives George as a parting gift, the angel inscribes a similar message: “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.”
We’re emerging, tentatively, from one of the worst years on record, or, at least, for as long as I’ve been alive. There’s a lot to be upset about and I won’t regale you with a list of misfortunes, or tell you what you can’t feel. I too miss the cross country meets and glass box antics and overcrowded, overheated, too-long dances. Yes, I reminisce through rose-tinted glasses, but I too long for a return to normalcy.
There is, however, also a lot to look fondly upon. These past months have brought hardships, but they’ve also brought countless memories, from marvelously attended Gov Clubs, to socially distanced walk/runs through D.C.’s criss-crossing streets, to solitary late night drives through the rain, listening to Dire Straits. I often picture, during those drives, my last conversations with friends before we part this spring—awfully nostalgic I know. Seniors, we have but a few months left together. I recognize the irony of calling for togetherness when we are seemingly more separate than ever before. But times like these show us the true nature of community.
There are a lot of you out there on the close, and while I know many of you, I don’t know all of you. Sorry underclassmen. But those of you I do know—especially the seniors—I hope you realize that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. It sounds cliched, but every one of you really does play a separate role in forming our close community—a community that, as the years pass, only grows. Every one of your lives touches so many other lives. I can point to positive memories I’ve shared with each of you these past nine years.
There are negative memories too—highschool is… an experience. And we live in a polarizing era. None of us is perfect. Instead, we’re human. In this holiday season, it can often feel to me like my Jewish traditions and practices clash with the ambient atmosphere of forgiveness and holiday cheer. In the Jewish tradition, forgiveness is something that can only be received directly from the person one has wronged, before even God can forgive. Because your transgressions are separate from my life, I won’t try to erase your sins within a single article. But I will still try to embrace the holiday season.
That does not extend to listening to Christmas Carols pre-Thanksgiving—you know who you are.
Seniors again—cherish your last months. This isn’t the high point of our lives, but it is a formative one. I’m going to miss you, and many others, when we go to college. But, remember, “[nobody] is a failure who has friends.” As isolating as the moment seems, you all have people you care about, and who care about you. Embrace them. Sorry mom, not physically. Embrace the moment, live in it, and be merry and selfless. After all, the impact of George Bailey’s disappearance is so great due to his individual impacts on those around him.
These platitudes may very well be insufficient and you might still feel this strange melancholy that comes from missing out on so many rites of passage—I know I do. Embrace that melancholy too, and the bittersweet feeling of counting down the days. If you’re looking for a song recommendation that expresses that feeling, try Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco. Or, alternatively, Cascada’s Everytime We Touch.
In such a strange time, cherish the little moments and the friendships and the relationships that bring you joy. Keep hope. And remember, above all, that it’s a Wonderful Life.
Zachary Leiter, over and out.
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