2011 will be a hard year to forget. I found myself living in Joplin, a city torn apart by a devastating Tornado. 161 people died and thousands of my neighbors lost their homes. I lost my job. My mother died. My uncle Andrew died. My cousin Vince died too. (He was my age.) If I wanted to dwell on these and other highlights of a miserable year I could certainly get mighty depressed. But, ironically almost the opposite occurs. In spite of the sadness and loss there is remarkable renewal and fond memories that inspire me.
The natural catastrophe that hit Joplin spared me and the job loss heightened my awareness of the amazing spirit and drive of the people around me who, in spite of dismal circumstances, were showing me (and the rest of the world) what it means to have faith. Good people were picking up pieces of rubble and debris and slowly, but surely, rebuilding their lives.
Death is a natural part of life. When my mom died my sadness was quickly overwhelmed by the memories of who she was and how many people she enriched during her time on this earth. She was a part of hundreds of community theater projects as an actor and director. Through her, I started to observe the dramatic in everyday existence. Similarly my uncle, a teacher and fine artist, inspired me to see. Andrew knew than his talent began with the ability to recognize the beauty in things. He offered compositions that were full of expression and color. My cousin Vince was always searching. He left us too soon. While he never lived up to his aspirations, his time was up. The world lost a witty and charming soul. Vince, perhaps most of all, reminds me that life it too short and too precious to waste even a moment of it.
Still, the Cardinals won the World Series. I got to see the Thanksgiving Day parade in New York with my wife, Lynn and terrific grown up children, Lindsey and Ben. Theater and Fine Art live on. People are helping people and even the uncertainty of tough times open up an infinite number of possibilities. Renew. Rebuild. Aspire. It’s a wonderful life!