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! ;-)
Sometimes life throws you a little surprise in the traffic-choked holiday season parking lot. Appreciating it is definitely creating a Life Well-Lived...
Down at the Dana Point Harbor, there is an independent coffee shop called Coffee Importers. Every holiday they hang beautiful red and gold star paper lanterns from the rafters in their patio area. The illuminated lamps create a bazaar of glowing color, and it is difficult to stop staring at them.
Last year, inspired by their beauty, I ordered a few, especially colorful ones, online. I hung them in a rather dull corner and sent pictures to a friend. She immediately requested the website and ordered her own. I draped them from the ceiling at my parents' home last Christmas, and they are now asking when I am coming back to rehang them. I put them up for my birthday, and my guests wanted to know where I got them. I've even seen them in neighbor's windows.
There is a unique and universal appreciation for these paper star lanterns one does not often see in life. Everyone loves them.
How can they not be part of a Life Well-Lived? Looking at a constellation of star lanterns, soaking in their beauty, and sharing your appreciation with others. How lovely.
Perhaps creating a star lamp garden might be a charming way to nourish your soul for the holidays...
P.S. My favorite lantern spots are: Whirled Planet and Quasimoon.
M.J. Minerman writes for spinsters around the world who have "not found their lids and are pursuing lives well-lived."