We go through life thinking I am not one of the lucky, rich, successful ones; it is what it is. Yet, it is likely our current circumstances are more wonderful than we realize, blinded by the details of daily minutiae.
Frank Capra filmed It’s A Wonderful Life in 1946 after Jimmy Stewart returned from fighting in World War II as an officer and bomber pilot in the Army Air Corps. The film reminded a bus’ up world to step back, refocus, and see.
George Bailey is imperfect
The main character, contrary to my fuzzy memory, is far from saintly. He consistently does the responsible, dutiful thing to help his family and his community, costing him his world-traveling future. But choosing the unselfish, difficult path has made him resentful and occasionally short-tempered.
George reminds us we don’t have to be perfect to make good choices. Right choices, hard choices make life better and easier in the end.
In his small town, George knows and helps many. He jokes, celebrates, and comforts. These relationships help each person feel worth and valued, creating a stable community that ends up saving George.
We can create positive relationships wherever we are. A smile, greeting by name, or a few minutes to catch up, don’t cost us anything. Over time, the small things draw us closer and build community.
Attitude alters reality
George’s wife Mary grounds and balances him. She makes a happy home out of a dilapidated house and a modest budget, always seeing George’s heart beneath his gruffness.
Finding meaning in the everyday
The film’s message is about gratitude and meaning. Instead of superficial success symbols—new house, new car, lots of things—George’s life is rich and deep, full of people who love and respect him.
George has had as great an impact on his town as rich banker Mr. Potter, just differently.
Material things bring comfort not happiness.
Rather than the usual flashy, violent, snarky entertainment, It’s A Wonderful Life is a reminder that unremarkable people can make a difference living quiet, unremarkable lives through their treatment of others.
Celebrate such people in your own life. Reexamine your contributions. There’s always a way to connect and help once you accept Fred Rogers’ insight about your value: “you are special.” George Bailey was special, despite not feeling it. Think about all the people you interact with and know that you are too.
Hopefully, you won’t shout at your family, get into a bar fight, and contemplate suicide before gaining perspective on your wonderful life.
Watch the movie with someone you appreciate in your life. Find gratitude in an unsatisfactory situation which ended up working out for the best after all.
[Previously only available in the original black and white (my preference), It’s A Wonderful Life, now colorized, is available on Amazon Prime.]