Every Thanksgiving I look forward to watching It’s A Wonderful Life. When I was growing up my parents knew how to throw a great Thanksgiving. They cooked a fantastic meal and invited a bunch of family over. My Dad would, at some point later in the day, flip through our limited selection of channels. Besides watching the parades, I remember him stopping when It’s A Wonderful Life came on. And I now try to make that movie a part of every Holiday season.
The tale of George Bailey is such a sad one. He has wonderful friends and he is endearing to almost everyone he meets. He is genuine, honest, and fair. Yet he lacks confidence in himself. He dreams big but always puts the dreams of others before his own, and in doing so he loses everything. By his generosity and fairness he makes friends with the poor and the sick. And when his uncle could go to jail for fraud, George takes the blame. Even at his lowest point he does the good thing, continuing his good deeds despite all expectations to the contrary.
The most beautiful thing about this story is that George does not broadcast his good deeds to everyone. He never “toots his own horn” but rather turns the spotlight onto those he has helped. I prefer to watch this movie in black and white as the absence of color is an artful way of emphasizing that the story is not about the lights and glitter, but rather about the hearts of people.
Why do I bring this up now? Yes, it is Thanksgiving and the Christmas season is practically upon us. But I have recognized within the fictional character of George Bailey the struggles of all honest, hard-working men who never get credit for what they have done. They do what is right because it is what they must do. It is the character they have established within themselves.
Contemporary fiction is filled with a lack of faith in the human spirit. Everyone is shown as liars, cheats, and backstabbers. But I am tired of that kind of story. I want more George Baileys. Characters of people who are broken, brought to the very end of their hope, yet still do the right thing by the people around them. This Christmas I want to revel in the spirit of good deeds and restore my faith in humanity.
We live in such a pessimistic world, yet there is so much good going on all around us. We need only look for it in others and in ourselves. I believe God has given us that ability.
I love how It’s a Wonderful Life demonstrates the true reward of doing right by people and doing good without expectation of reward. When it appears that George Bailey has nowhere to turn it is the poor, the sick, and his family that come to his aid. Kindness reciprocates kindness. We live in a world of great fear, but if we reach out with love we will see love return to us.
This Christmas let’s remember the real reasons this season is special. Let us leave behind the greed and the selfishness in favor of sharing Christian love with all people.
Q: Did It’s a Wonderful Life similarly impact you?
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