Previously published on Yahoo Contributor Network March 29, 2011
No story ever has impressed me as profoundly as Hans Christian Andersen's, The Little Match Girl. One time, while I was reading this story to my three youngest children who, at the time, were 6, 4.5, and 3, I sobbed so convulsively that I had to hand the book over to my six-year-old to finish reading.
It didn't occur to me until years later why that story has always affected me so profoundly. Here was a little girl just trying to live, doing her best every single day just to make it to the end of one day and into the next. No matter how hard she tried, though, no matter how many hours she devoted to the task of selling those matches so she could stay alive, she never did enough. It just was never enough.
On that particular day, after raising my children with absolutely no support whatsoever (child support wouldn't kick in until several months later when the judge ordered it), I was the only one financially responsible to care for my children.
The mid-80s hit us hard and living off $100 a week proved to be impossible. But I kept lighting those matches and lighting those matches and lighting those matches...never giving up, even when my fingers became scorched with pain.
Along with The Little Match Girl, another story touches my soul deeply. My all-time-favorite movie, the movie that will forever remain my favorite movie, is the movie entitled, It's a Wonderful Life.
I know exactly why this movie is my favorite. The writing world, the world in which I felt I belonged, seemed always to be somewhere other than in my world. No matter how hard I tried to get into that world (pre-Internet), I couldn't. I didn't have an agent, I didn't have anything published, and I didn't belong to the Writer's Guild. Roadblocks appeared with every step I took.
Like Jimmy Stewart's character, George, every attempt I made toward reaching my goal was thwarted by one event after another after another. If I set aside a time to write, a child needed my attention or an unforeseen event occurred that forced me to push aside my dream so that I could attend to more immediate matters. And with children, illness and unexpected circumstances are numerous and consistent.
Years later, I still can't seem to break down the barriers that prevent me from making the kind of money that would allow me to support myself without financial aid from various sources.* Whether it's asthma attacks, cancer, back pain, caring for children, or just my own distracted brain - something prevents me from devoting my time to writing.
And yet, like the scene in It's a Wonderful Life, where George is standing in front of his Christmas tree before all of his friends and family, exhilarated as they show their support for him, I know I am already successful - for so many reasons.
I always wanted children and I was blessed with an abundance of them in the form of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I also understand that success isn't measured by how many people have read my work, but by how many people need me and love me.
More than that, the true measure of success - for me - is how many people I love and support. And they are many.
I will always choke up when I read The Little Match Girl and when I watch It's A Wonderful Life. And I will always work toward my goal no matter how old I become. Until they write on my headstone (even though I will be cremated),** "She finally gave up" - I will never give up, and I hope, that in some way, my words will live beyond my life.
So what movies tug at your heart? What stories impact you? Pay attention to the way you respond to them. You might learn something about yourself that will explain your actions and thoughts.
*I am now retired.
**Instead of cremation, I have decided to donate my body to science.