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What would George Bailey do?

Do you ever wonder, did a small act of kindness or grace in your life turn someone else’s story around?  What if you could see how your life touched other lives, both those you know and some you do not?  How rewarding it would be to see our generous words and actions played out in the lives of others.  Did your smile turn a stranger’s day around?  Did your words of empathy and understanding make someone misunderstood feel loved and heard?  It’s a wonderful life is my favorite movie of all time and it does all of these things so beautifully, so memorably.

The film follows the selfless character of George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, through a contagion of life events each steadily falling from one domino to the next.  Tracking down the unknown and forgotten ripples of George’s kindness, love and heroic acts.  It’s a sort of pay it forward analysis, but with a crystal ball and a time travel machine.  All courtesy of George’s guardian angel Clarence.  Clarence gives us a glimpse of how eternally big a small life can really be.

In youth, we sometimes flounder with what we want to do with our lives and what our grand purpose is.  What is it we’re supposed to do with this one crazy life we’ve been given?  As time goes by, I’ve come to realize that my life’s journey is not about achieving some grand task or deed, but about living a collection of much smaller ones.  It’s a wonderful life lives out this notion so powerfully.  And, each year when I drink in Frank Capra’s cherished film, I appreciate and love it all the more.

Photo courtesy of Fanpop
Photo courtesy of Fanpop

Each year I pull the movie out along with my Christmas garland and ornaments, pour myself a glass of wine or coffee and let the Christmas tree decorating commence.  It usually takes me 2 or 3 viewings to finish my decorating, but I don’t mind, who wants to rush through sacred holiday tradition?

Director Frank Capra & Jimmy Stewart on the set of It’s a Wonderful Life
Director Frank Capra & Jimmy Stewart on the set of It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a wonderful life was released in December of 1946.  This year marks the 67th anniversary of the beloved Christmas classic.  There have been volumes of things written about this iconic movie and so I wondered, what could I possibly add?  But then I thought, there is always more room to delight in the things that inspire and move us.  Topics we continue to enjoy deconstructing and turning upside down.  It would be like not writing about love or babies because everything honoring and savoring them had already been written.

The film is often cited by both Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart as personal favorites.  In The Making of It’s a Wonderful Life 1990 Documentary, Frank Capra describes the movie, “in a sense it epitomizes everything I’ve been trying to do and trying to say in my other films, only it does it very dramatically with a very unique story.”  At that pivotal point in his career, it captured his vision and his wonderfully optimistic ideas about the power of the individual, the everyday man, in a compelling and endearing way.  Even though the movie was originally released to lackluster response in the late 40’s, it was revived in the 70’s when a clerical error allowed the copyright to expire.  From then on, all the channels could play it restriction free.  And, they did… a divine mistake indeed.

It’s a wonderful life is the kind of movie I get teary-eyed about even before the sentimental parts happen because I’ve seen the movie so many times.  My heart-strings have already been tugged and remember the pull that’s coming.  Jimmy Stewart’s character George Bailey is so genuine and lovable, I fall more and more in love with him each time.  He continually makes the hard decisions, the selfless ones, the trustworthy ones.  This George Bailey who lassoes the moon, also lassoes our hearts.  He looks at the fruit from the forbidden tree and continually says no.  It makes you want to ask in your own life, “what would George Bailey do?”

Okay, I’m almost done gushing about the movie, but if you’ve seen it, I know you understand.  And, if you haven’t, please my friend, grab a cup of cocoa and give your heart-strings a warning, I think you’re gonna love it.  Here is a sneak peek if you like.  One side note, the movie has been colorized, but I adore it in black and white just the same.  It suits the movie better I think.  George Bailey sees the world in good or bad, black or white and I tend to love that about him.  Because, there is just so much darn gray out here in the real world.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAERYfeiYBc

Finally, let me leave you with this.  One of the quotes from the movie reminded me of the poem below.  George’s guardian angel Clarence says, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives.  When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”  Frank Capra lets us imagine for a moment all the ways one life affects so many other lives.  How if one thread in our tapestry is missing, it irrevocably changes our life pattern and so many other people’s patterns as well.  He gives us eyes to see the weaver’s pattern both with and without one golden thread.

Photo Credit: Kathy @ You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out
Photo Credit: Kathy @ You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out

The Master Weaver’s Plan 

My life is but a weaving
Between the Lord and me;
I may not choose the colors–
He knows what they should be.

For He can view the pattern
Upon the upper side
While I can see it only
On this, the underside.

Sometimes He weaves in sorrow,
Which seems so strange to me;
But I will trust His judgment
And work on faithfully.

‘Tis He who fills the shuttle,
And He knows what is best;
So I shall weave in earnest,
And leave to Him the rest.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needed
In the Weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

~Benjamin Malachi Franklin

 Now, I better get some sleep because Christmas is only 3 weeks away and I’m dreadfully far behind.

Sweet dreams friends.  It really is a wonderful life.

 

 

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