A Will To Live- Holiday Blog!
THE CLARENCE EFFECT
Will To Live Founder, John Trautwein, makes a Christmas Wish
Today is the 24th of December and I’m sitting by the fire watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” as I typically do on Christmas Eve. Yes, it’s Christmas Eve, my favorite day of the year. What makes today even more special is that it is also the first day of Hanukkah as well. Tonight so many of God’s creatures celebrate love and hope.
While watching the antics of George Bailey on this timeless movie classic, I’m reminded of the very first activity the Will to Live Foundation ever had just 2 months after we lost our Will to depression and teen suicide back in 2010. “Who’s Your Clarence?” we termed the night after a phrase I used in a speech to the FCA group at Northview High here in Johns Creek, GA just a few weeks after Will died.
My logic with “Who’s Your Clarence?” was clear to me, and I thought I’d be able to get these kids to recognize love in their lives through this movie and this “Who’s your Clarence? concept. The last half of It’s A Wonderful Life, centers around George Bailey going through some terrible difficulties in his life, to such an extent that on Christmas Eve he is about to throw it all away by jumping off the Bedford Falls bridge into the icy waters below. It’s at this point in the movie that his Guardian Angel, Clarence, appears and makes the brilliant decision to jump off the bridge before George.
What I’ve learned through the Will To Live Foundation, is what Clarence was banking on – ‘the more you give, the greater the Will To Live.’ I say it in every speech I make throughout the year. Clarence knew this and as a result, he knew that if he jumped off the bridge first, the “helping reflex” within George would take over from the “suicide reflex” because there is no stronger power than the power of giving. Clarence was right and George immediately sprang into “help” mode when he saw this little old man crying for help after jumping into the river. The suicide thoughts that were consuming him, disappeared and as a result, George jumped in to help a friend in need.
For the past six years, the Will To Live Foundation has put me in a position where I am continually approached, called, emailed or messaged from someone who is worried about a friend usually a teenager. My first response is “get professional help immediately” as we must always take this very seriously. My second response, however, is perhaps surprising as I say, “Can you get them to help someone? It will make them feel better.”
That is what I call the “Clarence Effect” and this morning, as I watch this play out in the movie, sitting between our lovely fire and our beautiful Christmas tree, I’m realizing that perhaps “Who’s Your Clarence?” was the wrong phrase for me to come up with back in those early days of Will To Live. My logic then was to encourage the kids to recognize that they do have “Clarences” in their lives and to reach out to them if they are ever in need! I now realize that perhaps the real message should have been the following:
“THIS CHRISTMAS BE SOMEBODY’S CLARENCE”
This Christmas, as in all Christmases that I can remember, I will watch all, or a part of, It’s A Wonderful Life (I hope it’s all). When I do I will think of the Will To Live Foundation’s first year. Our very first activity was a Christmas showing of It’s A Wonderful Life – sponsored by the Northview High Women’s Lacrosse team. Our theme was “Be Somebody’s Clarence” – and we raised about $650 that day enabling us to purchase 2,000 Love Ya Man wristbands (as of today we have distributed close to 100,000 of these bands).
Be somebody’s Clarence means you play the role of the Guardian Angel in your friends’ lives. Yes, in that wonderful movie, Clarence helped George Bailey that night – not only saving his life but also improving George’s life, but I think we often fail to realize what helping George did for Clarence. When you help someone, when you give of yourself, your own troubles dissipate in the goodness of giving, and you simply feel better. You find your wings!
I live this every day. This is what Will’s life taught me. His life and death and the resultant foundation has taught me that the more you give, the greater the Will To Live. By helping George, Clarence earned his wings. By helping our friends, we win “hope” – perhaps the most needed ingredient in increasing our own Will To Live.
So our Christmas wish this year – our Holiday wish this year – is quite simple. We wish that each of you have the opportunity to Be Somebody’s Clarence and feel the true joy of giving. This holiday, this New Year, be the one who says, “I love you” first and you’ll get more out of it. Be the giver in the “love ya man” transaction!
Merry Christmas my friends, as it says in the third verse of O’Holy Night – “Truly he taught us to love one another.”
So on this wonderful night of love, hope and GOOD WILL toward men, whether your celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or just life itself, I ask you to simply Remember 13 and Love Each Other, and if you are ever in need – well, I’ll Be Your Clarence!
Love Ya Man
The Will To Live Foundation
Raising Awareness of teen suicide, Increasing Education around mental illness, Delivering Hope to teens everywhere
December 24, 2019
To purchase your autographed copy of John Trautwein’s acclaimed book, My Living Will – click here