“I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I’m comin’ back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long…”
– George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life
This week I was able to see my all-time favorite movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, in a theater for the first time. I’ve seen it dozens of times before but never on the “Big Screen.” Watching it at a local theater, a near sold out showing, a beautiful restored print, in glorious black & white – what an amazing experience. George Bailey is my hero.
From childhood, George Bailey, dreamed of traveling to exotic places, building bridges, airfields and skyscrapers; doing and experiencing great things! At one point in the film George has a conversation with Uncle Billy:
George Bailey: [George hears a train whistle] “There she blows. You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?”
Uncle Billy: “Uh huh. Breakfast is served; lunch is served; dinner… “
George Bailey: “No, no, no, no. Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”
George has always been a dreamer. He has always wanted to get away from the “crummy little town” he grew up in. But life always seemed to sidetrack his plans. More precisely, his principles and sense of doing the right thing got in the way. He would see a need and because he was the one person able to help, he’d forfeit his wishes and did what he could see needed to be done.
Obviously, It’s a Wonderful Life is considered a favorite Christmas movie, and I watch it every year at Christmas time. However, for me it is a yearly reminder of what’s really important. As Pa Bailey says, “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.”
I will never build a great bridge or follow some quest down the Amazon. Yet, when I look back over my life I want to be able to see that I’ve made an impact in the lives of others for the better. Maybe it won’t be obvious, maybe I won’t see everything, but I hope that I will leave behind lives that I have impacted for the better. The movie’s main theme is summed up by George’s guarding angel, Clarence, “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?“
For me, It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t really so much a Christmas movie as it is a “Life Centering” movie. It’s a yearly reminder of what’s key to truly living; doing the right things, the importance of family and friendship.
“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up….Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.”
– Marilyn Monroe