My oldest brother, Rob, knows more about movies than anyone I know. When I was 19, he introduced me to “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and since that time it has become my favorite movie. George Bailey, the central character, is a small town person who wants to be a major success in a big city. Through a series of events, including World War II and his father’s death, George ends up staying in his hometown. Then, when one catastrophic business mistake could result in George going to jail, he considers extreme measures to remedy the situation. Thinking he is worth more dead than alive, George stands on a bridge ready to jump. It is at this point in the movie where George is given the unique opportunity to visualize what life in his hometown would have been like had he never been born.
This summer, the Walker community grieved as Scott Shockley, class of 2012, passed away after a twenty-six month battle with cancer. While all of us mourn a life cut short prematurely, there is no denying the positive impact Scott had on this community over the last fifteen years. Like George, Scott had significant dreams, some of which will not be realized. And, like George, Scott’s character, charisma, empathy, fire, perseverance, and faith touched each person who knew him. Scott’s life is evidence that the answer to the age-old question, “Can one person make a difference?” is yes! His life changed those around him for the better – classmates, teammates, teachers, family, caregivers at Children’s Hospital, and other adults and children who were also battling cancer. Who could blame Scott, if, like George, he asked “Why me?” But Scott did not live with regret; he lived with passion, grateful for each day. His mantra was “Remember the past, plan for the future, but live for today; because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.”
In the midst of our grief, Scott’s example encourages us to enjoy each day, right where we are, and with those we have been blessed to know. Rather than aggressively complaining about our current phase of life (“I can’t wait until high school!” “I can’t wait until I drive.” “I can’t wait to get out of the house and go to college!”), Scott’s example compels us to slow down and treasure the present. Consider that Scott was offered numerous times to participate in “Make A Wish,” where he could have one of his major dreams realized. Scott always declined the offer because he said that everything he dreamed about was right here in front of him – his family, his friends, his fishing pole.
As I joined many others in celebrating Scott’s life, I could not help but think of these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”