I have a Christmas tradition that reminds me of my values - of what's meaningful and what's truly worth caring about. Almost every year, without fail, I watch Frank Kapra's 'It's a Wonderful Life'. It's a movie about George Bailey, a man full of ambition and wanderlust who is tied to his father's savings and loan business after the death of his father, while he watches his brother and their friends fulfill their lifelong dreams. When his uncle misplaces a bank deposit while the bank examiner is waiting at their office, Bailey becomes desperate - he even goes to Mr. Potter, Bedford Falls' businessman, banker and miscreant, for a loan. Bailey then attempts to commit suicide only to be rescued by Clarence, his guardian angel who gives George a glimpse of what life would be like had he never been born. Of course after the vision, George is profoundly grateful and the town comes to his rescue, donating more than enough money to get him out of trouble.
Who hasn't felt like George Bailey at times? Who hasn't felt that the world would be better off without them? This is the movie that makes you think once or twice (if not more) about that.
But this is just one of the lessons to be learned from the movie. Another overarching theme has to do with how one feel about ones fellow man. How do you feel about everyday people struggling to get along? Are they humans with hopes and dreams, struggles and joys, like you? Or are they manipulative units to add to someone's bottom line, with a value that fluctuates with their capacity to consume.
The latter ways are the views of Mr. Potter. It's the view of many people today. And I think it's a pretty sad way to try and live with people. I like George Bailey's view of life much better. It's not easy. It can lead to some envy and some jealousy. But just like George Bailey, I believe it ultimately leads those sincerely dedicated to a life of service, generosity, contentment, friendship, grace and love, to a life of profound community. And I think this is ultimately one of the messages of the Christmas season - that life, focused upon the Gift that God has given mankind is to be lived in community around that Gift! It's only as we live isolated, selfish, lives focused on ourselves and our needs that life becomes hard, cold and incredibly unsatisfying. The Christmas/George Bailey kind of life is not life for a season, it's for a lifetime.
Watch the clip and see if you agree...