IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
A few days ago I tweeted this picture of Clarence, the angel from Frank Capra’s iconic Christmas story, “It’s A Wonderful Life”. An impressive number of retweets followed, along with an outpouring of love for the film. My Instagram had the same effect. One comment seemed to accurately sum up the world’s opinion.
“It must have been 11 years ago, maybe to the day.. I went to a matinee showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” with my friend Josh. We sat between two sweet 70-year-old ladies and two seriously rough leather-clad bikers. All of us left in tears! Still my favorite movie of all time. Thanks for posting!”
You’re welcome Mr. Reaper. Everybody loves the film. Everyone. You may have been a cactus in your last life if you’re not moved by Jimmy Stewart’s brilliant performance.
Most of you know the story and I don’t want to spoil it for the half dozen people in the world that haven’t seen the film. If you’d like a detailed synopsis click on the link below.
Briefly, George Bailey has longed to travel since he was a boy in the village of Bedford Falls. A series of dream busting events keep postponing his great escape till the would be adventurer winds up running the family building and loan business, married to his high school sweetheart and raising a batch of kids. He is a wonderful Father and husband, an honorable man, generous and unselfish to one and all. And then ….
When the town’s evil banker steals the company’s money from George’s forgetful Uncle Billy, their building and loan is suddenly in danger of going under. Unable to explain the missing funds to a bank examiner the family business is looking fraudulent and George is possibly going to jail.
While the film is blatantly sentimental it is remarkably gritty in some of the emotions it depicts. Overwhelmed George is suddenly out of control, guilty of near elder abuse, horrific to his old Uncle, screaming at his children and totally ungrateful for his life. Miserable, trapped and angry he gets drunk and contemplates suicide.
But, the entire town of Bedford Falls is praying for George. The Heavenly powers hear and send Clarence, a simple little angel with a room temperature IQ to save George. They promise him his wings if he’s successful
And we’ve come to the heart of the picture. When George wishes he’d never been born Clarence gives him his wish. Actually allows him to see the world as it would exist if he hadn’t been a part of it. And suddenly we’re given an elegant, black and white lesson of what a life is really worth. A beautiful film that reminds us that the good we do has a much greater impact on the world around us than any of us may ever see.
It’s a celebration of the ordinary Hero. The stay at home, step up to the plate, accept the responsibility of providing for the ones they love normal guys next door. It reminds us that we can all make a difference in this world. And that we’re probably never going to realize how valuable our very existence is to the lives we impact. As you celebrate this special time of the year can you imagine a world without your touch?
I have a friend who’s a talented songwriter. Not a kid anymore he’s struggling to understand why for the last two years every opportunity to advance his career has seemed to inexplicably disappear. He’s been denied the recognition he richly deserves.
Upon closer examinations we realized his delayed success is a gift. For the last two years he’s been devoting almost all of his time to caring for the love of his life. She’s had some intense health problems and the career disappointment he experienced made it possible for him to be there for her. An important asset to her recovery. Success in his career would have meant travel and he’d have been unavailable. And no artistic success could have matched the importance of his being there for her
My friend’s realization was very much like Clarence’s lesson. “Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole doesn’t he?”
If possible make this remarkable celluloid life lesson a part of your holidays. In it I find the message that our most important roles may be as supporting players in other unseen adventures. That kindness is the language of the script we best follow to our own wonderful lives and that perhaps there are angels around us who smile approvingly when we start to live in love and service, gratitude and trust.