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We Can Still Listen, Laugh, & Love in 2020

No, that’s not a typo. I’m referring to Clarence, the guardian angel from my favorite movie of all time: It’s a Wonderful Life. Starring Jimmy Stewart (whom I met in the fall of 1989 during a book signing), the movie shows how a desperate George Bailey, wanting to end it all, gets the gift of a guardian angel (Clarence) who shows just how significant an impact he has made in the lives of everybody around him. 


It’s a powerful story that I watch every Christmas season. This year, I find it holds an even more poignant lesson for us all.


Last week I paid tribute to Tony Hsieh, a modern-day visionary who impacted the lives of many millions of people. Yet, as we now know, his life ended tragically in a story that reveals how despite all the success, he felt increasingly isolated and alone, especially during the pandemic. The reality is that this man, who wrote the book “Delivering Happiness” and was obsessed with the topic was not happy himself. This type of suffering made me pause and think that if it could happen to him, we are all vulnerable. 

There’s a great deal of attention in recent years on mental health. I tend to be a “glass is half full” person and get accused of being pathologically optimistic. I’ll take that. But now we have a perfect storm brewing that brings together the holiday season, a divisive presidential election, and the impact of a pandemic. We have annual, four-year, and century events happening all at once. And that’s on top of the stress of daily living and making ends meet.   

Is this truly “the most wonderful time of the year” as the Christmas song goes? This year of 2020, that just not hold true for many of us.   

What Do We Do With This Challenging Year?

So what do we do besides kvetch (a great Yiddish word) about 2020? Well, here’s a start: Be Clarence. He’s an appropriate role model for this moment and exhibited at least 3 character traits worth noting here:

  • Listen: Be willing to ask questions and then spend the time to allow people to talk. 
    The pandemic has isolated us in ways never experienced. No, we can’t do many of the activities that keep us busy. Yes, we can take the time to take a moment and just allow others to talk. That may be your employees. Your patients. Your customers. Your family members. It is amazing what can happen when you simply ask a question and then sit back and listen. You will learn something in the process.  
  • Laugh: Laughter heals people. In my interview last summer with Comedian Craig Shoemaker, I laughed hard.  He showed me how laughter indeed heals. To that end, here is perhaps the funniest meme I’ve seen that captures what this year has been about:
2020 Aliens Meme
  • Love: Amor Vincit Omnia wrote the Roman poet Virgil at the dawn of the  first millenia. “Love conquers all things” is true and needed now more than ever. This has been a year when a lot of normal life got cancelled. It’s been hard.

I’ll leave you here with the most meaningful graphic I’ve encountered this year with aspects of our lives that were not and cannot be cancelled. 

2020 Not Cancelled

2 thoughts on “We Can Still Listen, Laugh, & Love in 2020”

  1. Absolutely true Shareef, thanks for the insight and reminder. Need to keep our perspective and focus on what we can control during this uncontrollable time and place we are in. We can control how we respond and also focus on what is not cancelled. Take care, Heather

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