“It’s a Wonderful Life” and Our Lives

“It’s a Wonderful Life” and Our Lives December 20, 2023

The text reads "It's a Wonderful Life. My favorite movie."
Like Clarence shows George in this film, we need to highlight the differences that others make in our lives. Via Canva

My favorite movie of all time is also a Christmas movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring James Stewert and Donna Reed. Though the movie came out in 1946, it is amazing how much psychological insight it has for us today.

(If you have not seen the movie, I recommend it for 2023. This article has a spoiler alert! Though I want to spend more time on its relevance for today, you may want to stop and watch the film yourself first.)

George Bailey and His Wonderful Life

One of the main characters, George Bailey, was raised to be a person of character. His father started what the movie called the “Building and Loan,” a financial institution that helped everyday people purchase homes.

George showed character as a boy by risking his life to save his brother from drowning in an icy pond. He worked for a pharmacist and noticed that he had been drinking and had accidentally put poison rather than the proper drugs in a particular prescription. He saved the pharmacist who would likely have been charged with murder.

George and His Dreams

He dreamt of moving out of his hometown, Bedford Falls, and traveling the world. He kept giving up or adjusting his dreams when circumstances demanded that he stay with the Building and Loan. No doubt, at times, he wished that he had been able to travel and “build bridges,” as he once saw his life unfolding. The only other financial institution in town was the bank, run by his nemesis: a greedy old man named Potter. He hated to see Potter exploit the entire population of Bedford Falls.

One day, his uncle and employee accidentally gave a large deposit to Potter, who kept it. George did not know how he would be able to find money to replace the deposit and Potter told him that he might go to jail.

After the money loss, he went home, acted completely out of character, and scared his wife enough that she called everyone they knew to pray for him. Heaven sent him an angel second class named Clarence, who had not yet earned his wings.

Clarence and Grace

Clarence showed him what their town would be like if he had never been born. In short, it would not be a friendly, wholesome place to raise a family. Instead, it looked like a dump with drinking and sex for sale as well as poor people who could not afford a decent place to live.

Our Lives and Clarence

Any dreams that we have had for our lives when we were in our late teens and twenties were dreams. Our dreams rarely include possible negatives. We may want an interesting, well-paying profession, a loving partner, great friends. Dreams may also include where we might live, where we might travel, and who we might become.

Like George, Our Own Dreams Shift

Like George, we make sacrifices out of love for others and may shift our dreams and plans. We make the best decisions we can, uncertain of how they will unforld. In his effort to provide people with reasonably priced homes, George and the Building and Loan lived on the edge. He may not have envisioned exactly what happened when Uncle Billy lost the deposit.

Have you ever felt like you were unsuccessful or made a mistake that would not easily come undone? These experiences can cause despair. This is when we need friends or family members to step in and show us the wonder in our lives, explain what life would be like without us and how we have blessed so many people.

We All Have Wonderful Lives

God created each one of us in God’s image and likeness. All of the small things that we do makes a difference to others: a kind word, a cheerful smile, the choice of patience rather than honking the horn at someone who is likely having a bad day.

Although we are imperfect, we try to become better human beings. Even if we are somewhat successful, there are just days when it is difficult for us to see the positive in ourselves and our lives. I hope that in the new year, we can all become more aware of the times when we need to play the role of Clarence and reveal to others that they, too, have wonderful lives.


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