As far back as I can remember, every Christmas Eve, after opening our gifts and gorging ourselves on a splay of hors d’oeuvres, my family would sit down together and watch the most wonderful Christmas movie ever, It’s A Wonderful Life.
I don’t think I truly started to appreciate this movie until I got to college. It is replete with symbolism and heavy themes, much that goes unnoticed to the child’s eye. When I was a kid, the thing that most struck me about this film was that angels got wings when bells rang and a man named George Bailey got to see what life would be like if he was never born. In fact, I sort of tuned out the beginning portion of the movie, where nothing is happening but character development.
Now this beginning part of the movie is the part I love most. We get to see into the life of a small-town hero, one who is great in the minds of his fellow townspeople but feels like life should have offered him more.
Especially at the age I am at now, George Bailey’s story is super relatable. He was a man with big dreams, but unforeseen circumstances stuck him in his small hometown of Bedford Falls, doing a humdrum job he swore he’d never do. He marries his high school sweetheart and starts a family, never accomplishing those far-reaching dreams of his youth. When his business and reputation is compromised, he contemplates suicide, only to be saved by his guardian angel, Clarence, who shows him how much of an impact he has on the ones he loves and how tragic life might have been if he’d never lived.
It is a nice reminder to see that even if the lives we are leading seem insignificant to us, our love and generosity and spirit can have a massive effect on those around us. The actions that to us may seem commonplace or obvious could be changing the very course of someone’s life. George Bailey is “the richest man in town” not because he has mounds of gold lying around or is wildly famous, but because he has friends and family who love him and respect him more than anything, and that is no little task. He leads an honest, good life, and though from the surface it seems like this goodness is not rewarded, in reality he lives a life to be coveted.
I think at some point all people dream of fame and riches. When I was in high school I thought that by now I would have written a novel that put me in the same league as JK Rowling. But writing is a lot harder in real life than it was in my high school dreams, and I don’t even have a sentence written of that great novel (at least, I don’t think I do). The fact is, our dreams are allowed to change; as we get older, we become more grounded, and while it is hard to let go of those dreams, eventually they will be replaced by others – like being a mom and running a little business and being the picture of a housewife. Maybe someday I will still write that great novel, but right now I am content with the little life I am living, caring for my husband (as best I can), contributing to society with my art, and leaving my plans open for the time we are blessed with children. Maybe I will never be famous, but that’s perfectly all right because fame does not define success – love does.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
– Romans 15:13