2021. What a year it’s been.
I know I’m not the only one who is happy to see it go and have a new one take its place.
2021 has been a year of fears, tears, loss, and dreams stripped away. For most of us, there’s a new life entirely that we have had to adapt to – involuntarily.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that this year marks the 75th anniversary of Its a Wonderful Life, a film illustrating a man’s attempt to navigate the battlefield of life – it’s ups and downs – but especially, the downs.
This year as I watched George Bailey’s struggle in Bedford Falls, several points stood out to me, reminders that I need on a constant basis.
And so dear reader, I am writing this to myself as much as to anyone who would like to glean from George Bailey’s Wonderful Life.
1. Accept Your Destiny
Throughout It’s a Wonderful Life, a war rages within George between his desire to make it big in the world and his moral conscience which won’t let the townspeople suffer at the hands of Potter.
The longer he stays there the more we realize along with George that he, not unlike a trusty lamppost lining Main Street, is a permanent fixture of Bedford Falls, U.S.A.
George loves his friends and family, and though years have gone by, his dreams of ambition haven’t faded away.
Although George is physically present at the Building and Loan, it is evidenced that at times his heart is in another place – building skyscrapers, perhaps, in some exotic locale.
After learning of his value via Clarence, George stops running from his fate and accepts his place in life. Now, he is finally at peace with himself and can experience true happiness.
2. Be Willing to Ask for Help
George refers to a “bust in the jaw” from Mr. Leech at Martini’s Bar as an answer to a prayer, to which Clarence quickly refutes and claims George’s prayer as the reason he was sent down from Heaven.
Independence is an honorable trait, but so is being aware of our capabilities and limits. If George hadn’t asked for help, who knows what the ending of our story might have been.
This much we can surmise. There would have been no Clarence and no travel back in time…
Thankfully, as we know, George got the help that he needed and (eventually) was humble and wise enough to accept it.
Often in life we don’t want to be a bother or feel the vulnerability of relying on another so we choose to go our way alone. We forget that as human beings we are a social race and, in many ways, rely on each other for survival.
3. Realize the Bad Guys Don’t Always Get Outwardly Punished
Mr. Potter, the baddest of the bad.
How did he, the richest man in town, get away with stealing that invaluable $8,000 dollars from the good-hearted, but always broke, Bailey Building and Loan? I thought in Code films the bad guys were required to get retribution for their dastardly deeds…Did Frank Capra miss something here?
Strangely enough, this is one of my favorite aspects of this movie, so hang tight.
Our villain, though deserving he may be of public humiliation, to be put in the stocks, so to speak, does not even receive a proverbial slap on the hand.
His fate is to live out the rest of his life in misery with only his money and his manservants around him. Never to feel the warm glow of love, the tenderness of a kind word, or the support of a caring friend.
I love the scene when a penniless, jubilant George wishes miserly Mr. Potter a Merry Christmas after he’s been on his relevatory trip. It never fails to make me laugh and cry tears of joy, and in this one image the distinction is never clearer between the winner and the loser.
I ask you, discerning reader, how perceptive is Capra’s ending for Potter? Often we don’t see the end of the story for the “villains” but sooner or later, they will pay the piper for their misdeeds.
It just might be in a way we would never expect.
4. Believe that Good Can Come from Bad
We know the story. Uncle Billy misplaced the Building and Loan money and that meant ruination, scandal, and jail for the Bailey’s.
George never thought much of himself but what about the family reputation? What about Mary, Pete, Tommy, Janie, and Zuzu?
This led George to a dark place where he believed the words of Mr. Potter, “You’re worth more dead, than alive.”
All he had left was a life insurance policy. If he took his own life and let his family use that life insurance money they could get on for a little while before, surely, someone else could help them…
On that cold dark night, George’s heart was troubled which led him to a prayer for help.
Help came in the form of Clarence. Clarence helped George to see his worth and in everything around him which enables George to live his best life yet.
This chain of events would never have happened if Uncle Billy hadn’t lost the money in the first place.
George had to lose almost everything to find out he had everything.
5. Invest in People
Peter Bailey’s office bears the sign “All you can take with you is that which you give away.” He devoted his life to that credo and George followed suit.
Throughout the movie he gives and gives of himself till he has nothing left.
That all changes in the last scene when everything he has given returns to him tenfold, not only monetarily, but most importantly, in spirit through his friends’ generous love and support.
This iconic scene (that makes us all get out the hankies) beautifully illustrates the meaning of life and Christmas.
Investing in others is never futile. Like a domino effect, our impact on the lives of those around us lasts long after we are gone. Acts of charity, the memories we make, relationships we build, and the love we share with family and friends, turns out a profit that will last – forever.
This post is my contribution to the It’s a Wonderful Life Blogathon: A 75th Anniversary Celebration hosted by yours truly. Click here to continue the celebration of this beloved holiday classic!