Newel Post Acceptance





Before his magical visit with Clarence, the wood finial atop the newel post at 320 Sycamore comes off in George Bailey’s hand, frustrating him.

As he has not yet had his epiphany, the fictional, relatable character, brought to life by Jimmy Stewart, decries the beat-up staircase for reminding him of all he doesn’t have.

But after, when it comes off, he kisses it before putting it back in its spot.

The hero, transformed, now appreciates even the simplest of broken things.


After a weekend celebrating my father-in-law’s 90th birthday, the kids, Jane, and I arrive at Ft. Myers airport.

“The earliest we can get you to Portland is Tuesday at 3pm,” the lady at check-in tells us.

It’s Sunday.

And it’s not her fault.

“We can get you as far as Dallas tonight, and you might have better luck from there,” she informs us with compassion.

Obviously, we are a bit disgruntled.

“We’ll make the best of it,” I tell the kids and Jane as we are rewarded for our good attitude with extra flight credit and meal vouchers.

Jane texts with clients as I make arrangements with the dog sitter, to whom I say, “I get extra time to spend with the kiddos. So, not so bad. Also, I love meal vouchers.”

I’m practiced at keeping a good attitude.

But then, I see the hotel near DFW the airline has put us in.


George Bailey’s newel post is on my mind because I recently got gold paint on the newel post in my garage.

I set a small, not yet fully dry, spray-painted wooden stand on it for too long and the paint transferred—so now the surface at the base of the stairs has bits of permanent gold paint on it.

And, it aggravates me.


The hotel is beyond my turn-it-around power.

I only have so much cheer in a day. And I’m out of it.

My countenance falls.

This is natural.

And I’m not going to fight it.

No reason to not be a bit bummed out.

I’m just going to accept it.

“Hey, they won a 2016 front desk award,” Emmett points out to me in an attempt to buoy me.

I smile, too deflated to laugh, and say, “Good one.”


Reflecting on the gold paint flecks on the white square surface—the newest battle scar from years of use as a temporary repository—I wonder if I’m not holding myself to too high a standard.

I can’t believe that George Bailey, a few years later, wouldn’t want to fix the stairs.


A night of sleep and the news they can get us all the way to Portland today refreshes my tanks.

I joke on the way down in the elevator, “We all look refreshed due to the bed sheets exfoliating our skin.”

It’s a lifelong practice to accept the things we cannot change without indulging our disappointments. And to do so with humor.

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With love,
Rabbi Brian

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