In the 1946 movie "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey has big plans for his future: he's going to see the world and build skyscrapers. As he is saying his final goodbyes and leaving town, his father suffers a fatal heart attack. Knowing the family business, Bailey Building and Loan, will close without his presence, George decides to stay until circumstances improve.
As time passes, he attempts to leave again and again but is always thwarted by obligations beyond his control. Eventually, he marries, has a family, and becomes a prominent member of the community. When his bumbling uncle misplaces business funds, George is in danger of bankruptcy and prison. Frustrated with missed opportunities and believing he is better off dead, George decides he wants to die.
On the verge of ending it all, George is given a glimpse of what the world would have been without him: his brother, whom he saved from drowning as a child, would have died. Everyone on a military transport, saved by his brother, would have perished because his brother was not there to prevent it. The pharmacist's drunken medication confusion, righted by George, would have killed the patient, and George's wife, never marrying, would have become a frightened old maid. (I know...just go with it!)
He learns, although he did not pursue his dreams, he made a massive difference to the people around him, and maybe that was more important. George returns home to find the entire town, whom he has helped through the years, at his home, donating money to keep the Bailey Building and Loan doors open. His brother raises a glass to the crowd: "A toast to my big brother George, the richest man in town."
There are a couple themes in this classic movie which remain relevant today:
George puts people first. He never achieves his dream of seeing the world because his family and friends needed him. Still, he builds a rich life with deep connections to the people around him, and perhaps that was more important.
Life does not go according to plans. George's life did not work out the way he had hoped in his younger years, but he realizes he still has lived a "wonderful life" full of love and meaning.
Perhaps we can take away these lessons and apply them to our own Lives Well-Lived!
Happy Belated Christmas, dear Reader! "It's a Wonderful Life!"
P.S. Sorry for the late posting. I pulled a George Bailey and put my family and friends first! ;-)
M.J. Minerman writes for spinsters around the world who have "not found their lids and are pursuing lives well-lived."