It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is one of my all time favorite movies, not just for Christmas, but in general. Since I was a kid, I’ve watched this almost every year.
I recently got to see this movie in the theater, something I never thought I’d be able to do. Alamo Drafthouse plays old movies, and we bought tickets as soon as we spotted it on the schedule. I’ve seen the movie many, many times, and I cry every time. I cry in the beginning, and then again in the end. Oh, and I also cry with Mr. Gower is hitting George. Okay, I pretty much cry during the whole movie. Your heart must be made of stone if you don’t. The end of the movie played along with background noises of sniffling and blowing noses. To use a cliche, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
What I love about this movie is that George Bailey is an ordinary guy forced to be extraordinary because of his situation. Sure, he could have made different choices. He could have chosen to do what Mr. Gower told him to and deliver the pills. He could have chosen to go off to college and say “To Hell with the building and loan!” He could have taken Mr. Potter up on his job offer. But he didn’t do any of these things. To him, he lived an ordinary life. He lived in a drafty old house with lots of kids, an older car, and struggled to make ends meet. He didn’t get to travel, the way he wanted to.
What he couldn’t see, what none of us can see, is how many lives we’ve touched. Sometimes it seems like we’re in this life alone, doesn’t it? In some ways, I think social media reinforces this concept because we can all see other people’s lives, but we’re not directly involved in them.
But the fact is, each and every one of us affect others in ways that we can’t possibly understand. We’re not likely to have a Clarence who can show us what the world would have been like if we weren’t in it. Here’s a real life example: when I was doing therapy, I would say some wonderful, profound things. But later, when clients told me what I said that most affected them or what they most remembered, it was things that I didn’t even remember saying, or things that I thought meant nothing. My point is that sometimes, when we don’t know that we’re affecting others, when we’re just being ourselves, that’s when we’re doing the most for other people.
That’s why I try to spread positivity. I try to smile at the cashier and leave an extra dollar for a tip when I can. I try to let in that person who wants to merge in traffic. I try to listen to the crazy cat lady at PetSmart, even when I really don’t need to hear about the protein content of wet cat food. I try to like or comment on other people’s Facebook posts because I know how lonely it can be when it seems like no one’s listening. I try to comment on other writer’s blogs and support them. I try to say “please” and “thank you.” I try to be the best version of myself I can, because I just don’t know how something I say or do might affect someone.
Maybe I’ve never saved anyone’s life, or anything that dramatic. But what if helped someone have a better day, and they went out and saved someone’s life? It’s the Butterfly Effect, and there’s no way of knowing what happens when you flutter your wings, or how far those air currents go.
Be the best version of yourself that you can be today, and every day. Let go of competition and jealousy. You’re wonderful and you’re you for a reason.
It really is a wonderful life. 🙂
If you’re curious, here’s my list of the Top 10 Christmas movies.