It should really come as no surprise that It’s a Wonderful Life is not only my favorite holiday movie, but one of my favorite movies of all time.
The story of the utterly decent George Bailey and his delayed dreams has always resonated with me.
George thought that his life purpose was somewhere bigger, better, and more exciting than his sleepy hometown of Bedford Falls, New York.
Instead, events conspire to keep him home.
Reluctantly, but wanting to do the right thing, he looks after the family business, The Bailey Building and Loan Association.
George’s heart is never completely in it, but not wanting to let his family or community down, he rises to the challenge and runs the business with integrity.
He marries the gorgeous Mary, who supports him no matter what comes their way. She is his radiant backbone, though sometimes he fails to notice.
George feels that all is lost when the hapless but lovable Uncle Billy looses an $8,000 deposit on Christmas Eve to the villainous banker, Mr. Potter.
During George’s darkest hour, as he contemplates suicide, his guardian angel, Clarence, pays him a visit to show him what life would have been like had he never been born.
George has the benefit of seeing how his presence had positively impacted those around him, including preventing the grieving chemist Mr. Gower from making a lethal mistake and saving the life of his younger brother, Harry.
My favorite moment is when Harry Bailey, now the decorated war hero, comes in at the end and toasts, “To my big brother George, the richest man in town!”
This perfectly encapsulates what really matters in life: not power, not wealth, not material goods, not social status, but the love we share with family and friends.
George had had a wonderful life all along.
He just couldn’t see it.
Clarence’s visit shifted his perception.
It’s this shift in perception that makes me love this film as I do.
I believe this is the true miracle in the story.
Like George Bailey, when we shift how we view things, we have the power to liberate ourselves from all that binds us.
When we shift our perceptions, we can metaphorically move the mountains before us.
We move them by how we view them.
Do we see them as hills? Fun ski runs? Mere speed bumps?
The trick is to gracefully and gratefully accept the challenges they present.
When we choose a different perspective, we are no longer victims of circumstances, but participants in our own stories.
We are no longer stuck or trapped, but exactly where we are supposed to be, for reasons we may yet to comprehend.
With this shift, we have the power to take our injuries and turn them into gifts as we assign them meaning.
We then have the power to transmute our own sorrow into compassion for others who may one day experience the same pain.
George saw his life in a new way after his visit to the seedy Pottersville, but we don’t require a dark hour or a visit from an angel to make us understand.
If we’re not happy with what we see, we can choose a different view.
This is a choice we all have, no matter where we find ourselves.
And this choice has the power to make life then seem wonderful indeed.
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