Today, February 2nd is Groundhog Day when tradition holds that if a groundhog sees his shadow, he will return to his burrow and we will have six more weeks of Winter.
Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog, saw his shadow this morning, so springtime in the North may be delayed. Yet his Southern cousin, General Beauregard Lee of Stone Mountain, Georgia, did not see his shadow, so the Southland can expect an early Spring, assuming you believe in the accuracy of groundhog weather forecasts.
I have found this annual event also to be a reminder to watch the movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. Released in 1993, this film has become, in the eyes of many, a stunning morality play. And much like the 1946 film, It’s a Wonderful Life, Groundhog Day has taken on an iconic status, becoming a timeless classic that is both entertaining and uplifting with a sound moral message.
In the movie, Bill Murray plays the lead role of Phil Connors, a Pittsburgh weatherman, who considers the assignment of reporting on the Groundhog Day Festival in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, beneath him. He is arrogant, condescending, and cannot wait to leave the hick town and return to the big city and reporting gigs more worthy of his talents.
A snowstorm traps him in this Pennsylvania hamlet, and he soon discovers that he is living the same day, over and over and over again. Initially, he takes advantage of this unwelcome 24-hour mulligan to indulge every carnal desire only to experience despair as he realizes that such a lifestyle never truly fulfills him. Gradually, he recognizes the need to change and starts to focus on the needs of others, discovering that the joy of giving is far more satisfying than his previous self-centered, narcissistic pursuits.
As he ultimately rejects the meaninglessness of existence, Phil reevaluates what truly matters in life. He becomes a man of generosity, asking people, “What can I do for you today?”
Now some 26 years after the movie debuted, philosophers and religious thinkers are still debating its meaning. For most people, though, the message is a simple one. For those who live treadmill lives, Groundhog Day offers a hope that there is meaning and purpose even in doing the same routine things every day. As Phil adopted a spirit-of-service mentality, he reminds us that there are daly opportunities to be a servant to those in need.
Watching Groundhog Day reminds me of a quote from the Christian preacher, teacher, and author Mark Rutland. Writing an article for Charisma Magazine titled, 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 21, Rutland’s Thing #4 was “Serving is better than being served.” He went on to say, “I wish I had known at 21 how hollow is all that outward stuff. I wish I had known that caring, not being cared for, is what Christ had in mind. I wish I had changed more diapers instead of leaving that to my wife. I wish I had served more meals, carried more bags, held more doors and lightened more burdens.”
Hopefully, we don’t have to be stuck in a time loop in Punxsutawney to learn that lesson.
Happy Groundhog Day!