As with many of us, one of the highlights of the Christmas season in our home is the watching of the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life”. Something about Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, one of innocence, hope, adventure and energy, rings true about the season and touches a part in all of us, I believe. There is a scene in that film where George Bailey is defending his father’s efforts to keep the building and loan business going after all these years to Mr. Potter. If you look over Jimmy’s shoulder there is a small plaque next to a picture of his father, Peter Bailey, which reads: “All you can take with you is that which you have given away.”

“All you can take with you is that which you have given away…” That statement has really taken on a significance to me, before unrealized. During the holiday season of 2006 and early 2007 I lost my mother and father, my Mom to cancer and my Dad to Parkinson’s Disease, devastating diseases which seem to take a part of someone you love away, one facet at a time. My mother and father were teachers all their lives and loved giving; through their lectures, through their experiences, their knowledge and love. As I watched Mom and Dad slip from this life, I realized, as anyone that has lost someone close understands, that all that we work for and toil at each day, in the end, will have limited significance. True significance comes only through our ability to give away that which we have, whether it is compassion, knowledge, experience, money, and love.

This past year has been a tough one for many of you reading this article. It seems the challenges we each experience can, at times, seem like they grow in intensity each year. Some of you are dealing with major issues right now, with little hope of having time with your families and friends this holiday season. The demands of your work or business seem to take on a life of their own and require so much of what you have to offer. The holidays this season will become just another day. Andy Andrews, a comedian and more recently, accomplished author, made the statement one time that, “We are either in a storm in our life right now, we have just left a storm, or there is one of the horizon. That is just the way life is.” In the line of work many of us are in, this statement also relates to life in a small business. We are either dealing with a challenge right now, we have just finished responding to a crisis, or the potential is out there that we have one coming.

As you reflect back over this past year, what are those instances where you, or someone close to you, have given something away to others? It might be your time, probably your effort or expertise in handling a certain situation, possibly financial resources directed to prepare or to respond to someone in need.  Some of you have lost someone dear to you that gave the ultimate sacrifice in the service to others. Let’s remember these times, these individuals and the investment made to assist friends, neighbors, community members in their time of need. Savor those memories. Ultimately, it is in the giving that we create an impact long after we are gone.

Regardless of your faith, the Christmas season is one accented by giving. Though commercialization has taken its toll on the holiday, underneath lies that spirit of giving, that spirit of love. As you gather with friends and families this year, as you open the presents under the tree, as some of you respond to the needs of those in your community this Christmas Day, and as we all prepare for the next ‘storm’ on the horizon, let’s remember those parts of ourselves given, and the sacrifices of others made, as memories to be cherished. In this season of giving, wherever you are in life, remember that statement from, “It’s a Wonderful Life”,  “All you can take with you is that which you have given away.”

Until next time…

(Source: Mark Lupo, Area Director, UGA SBDC in Columbus)