Take-Aways from George Bailey
It’s a Wonderful Life has been a meaningful part of my Christmas season for decades. I find as I get older small things such as my love for this classic are enduring. Every year I’m inspired by George Bailey and his truly blessed life. George is a regular guy with big dreams who feels beholden to do the right thing, which often means foregoing his own desires. Even as a kid, George Bailey is an unintentional hero who risks his own well-being for the greater good. He still wishes for a million dollars like everyone else does. Hot dog! Opportunities to make a difference in other’s lives are usually unexpected, but I love this movie because we and George get to see the impact of his actions. That there are often unknown ripple effect of our actions is my truth, but then movies and books have gifted me with what some people deem as an unrealistic outlook. I call those people “cynics” and try to ignore them even when life is tough due to my take-the-easy-way-out inability.
But, I know I am not the only one. In 2007 Vince Gill released a song written by Al Anderson with the chorus, “All that you can take with you is what you give away”, which is very close to a framed quote under the picture of George Bailey’s dad in the Bailey Bros. Building and Loan. George is sometimes reluctant to give up his plans to “shake the dust from this crummy little town off my feet” and see the world, but by the time he forks over his honeymoon fund during a run on the bank he has embraced his role in Bedford Falls. Mary’s hair must have smelled heavenly to him when they were on the phone with Sam Wainwright. His dreams were thwarted so many times by that point that he trades them in to forge a new life path with his bride. George didn’t forget his desires, his big dreams, but adjusted to life’s reality, a reality rich in intangible treasures. The George Bailey line I relate to most is when Clarence explains that he knows so much because he is George’s guardian angel and George says, “Well, you look like the kind of angel I’d get”. I feel ya, George.
Along those same lines is the trouble he faces when Uncle Billy loses the Building & Loan’s deposit. You would think that after all the good George spread around he might have softened old man Potter’s greedy mean heart, but that is not the way it works, is it? A person rarely goes against their nature. It is George’s friends that come through for him, the very ones that motivated his detour. Sometimes I think my choices have not been appreciated a whit and are likely forgotten. It’s a Wonderful Life implies that is not the case and if I consider the impact others have had on my life, my dark thoughts are rendered senseless. I take away so many lessons from George Bailey. I may be uncertain of my financial future, but no man is a failure who has friends. Heehaw!