Life Lessons from George Bailey

Merry Christmas Eve

It is Christmas Eve! Many of you are taking part in your Christmas traditions, spending time with family and friends or running around to gather your last minute gifts.

One of my favorite Christmas Eve Traditions is to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you haven’t seen this Christmas classic now is the time to watch it as it is coming on plenty of channels this evening and probably will for a few days.

I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” a few days earlier this year with my mother since she couldn’t recall watching it. While I viewed this beloved classic piece of cinema, I noticed a few lessons I thought would be good to reflect on.

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PREMISE

It’s a Wonderful Life is a movie centered around one man, this man is George Bailey. George is an adventure at heart, a man with a plan for his life. But we see from his life he constantly places everyone else’s needs above his own. Life circumstances happen and George ends up staying in his small town.

George works with his Uncle Billy in the family’s Building and Loan business, on Christmas Eve, Uncle Billy goes to deposit all the money they have:  8000 dollars. On the way to the bank, Uncle Billy misplaces it, at the exact moment an auditor has shown up at the business.

George and Uncle Billy search everywhere in Bedford Falls, to no avail. The money is gone. Many prayers are prayed for George as his family and friends realize something must be terribly wrong. Clarence, an angel, comes as an answered prayer.

On this fateful night, with all hope lost in finding a way out of this mess, George contemplates taking his own life. Clarence convinces George that taking his life will not solve anything. George agrees he is probably right, and decides it would be better if he had never been born.

Clarence grants his request.

Then George and Clarence go on a journey through Bedford Falls, to observe and experience exactly what the world would look like if George Bailey had in fact never been born.

LIFE LESSONS

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the movie.

 

  1. DOING THE RIGHT THING.

George Bailey did the right thing even when he knew he most likely would be punished.

It is easy to do the right thing in life when people are watching or we know we will be rewarded. But when doing the right thing costs, or guarantees backlash many of us avoid it. Another excuse we will use is:  “This isn’t my problem or I didn’t make that mistake it is so and so’s fault”.

Let me tell you this is more common then you know. I worked in the restaurant business for many years. We constantly, me included would blame someone else. I remember having to run food to tables and when it was certain servers food something would be wrong. Then right there when I set the plate down and the guest says, “This is not what I ordered”. I have a decision to make, act like I don’t hear them, tell them I will tell their server, explain it isn’t my fault or the kitchen must have made a mistake, or take the plate back to the kitchen and try to get it fixed knowing I am sacrificing time with my table to fix this problem. The outcome of my choices changed on a nightly basis. :0) But mostly I chose to take it to the kitchen and yell for the server.

When George was a young boy, around 12, he worked in a drug store. His boss, Old Man Gower was a pharmacist and after receiving a telegram about the death of his son he remained at work. A call had come in for him to make medicine for a sick child in town, but unknown to Mr. Gower he actually made it with poison. George knew he had done this and tried to say something to Mr. Gower but being overcome with grief Mr. Gower shooed him away. George left the drug store and went to his father to ask for his advice, but George’s father happened to be busy with a business issue.

From the film, we don’t exactly know if George ever talked to his father about what to do but when he made it back to the drug store, Mr. Gower was on the telephone. The mother of the boy had called complaining about how the medicine never showed up. Mr. Gower hung up the phone and began to yell and slap George for not delivering the medicine. Once George spoke he told Mr. Gower how he knew he didn’t mean to do it, but that he had put the wrong stuff in the pills. Mr. Gower couldn’t believe it and apologized for slapping George and thanked him.

Later on in the story we find out George also never told anyone about what happened that day. What an honorable man not only did he do the right thing but he didn’t need to brag about it, another life lesson from George Bailey.

 

2. SOME PEOPLE NEVER CHANGE.

Mr. Potter is the villain of the film. To me he is a bully,there is nothing I distain more than a bully. No matter what happens with Mr. Potter he never changes, in my opinion, because he doesn’t want to change.

In life we have people who are a part of our life they can be good or bad. They can bring joy or pain. But the realization that is for sure is they will remain the same and not change unless they want to.

One of  the lessons I learned this year is I can’t make anyone change. Even if I see the potential in who they could be and who I want them to be. I can’t change them. They could be all these things and they could do so much with their life but they have to want to change. I can’t change them. Even with love and prayer they have to make that change. It is the free gift we have all been given, free will.

George stands up to Mr. Potter many times but no matter what he does, it never changes who Mr. Potter is. He stays the same for the entirety of the film. Many movies as the credits draw near, the old scrooge type changes for the better, but not Mr. Potter. He remains an old heartless, bitter man.

 

3. PRAYER AND ASKING FOR HELP.

 

Mary Bailey, what a woman. Mary is the constant guiding force of positivity and selflessness. She gives up her own honeymoon to help George’s family business stay open and instead of being pouty about it she goes and makes a home for them. No less out of an old shack.

Many things can be said about Mary and she could have her own list of life lessons. But the one I am focusing on is how Mary encourages her children to pray for their father.

Mary could have said well it is his own fault, he lost the money and he will have to find it. She could have called all of her friends and told them how bad and mean George was that night to her and the children. There are many different things Mary could have done, but instead she went and found a way to help him. She truly is a help mate.

Leaving her children and her warm home, to brave the snow Mary searched for a way to help George, by asking his friends for help. She asked them for help, she left pride to the side and went out on Christmas Eve to ask her friends for help.

 

4. ONE MAN’S LIFE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE, EVEN WHEN HE DOESN’T SEE IT.

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George felt like his life had amounted to nothing.

He never explored all the things he wanted to or visited the world like he hoped. He worked at the business his father had and lived in the same town he was born in.

Until Clarence shows George what Bedford Falls would have been like without him it is only here we truly see all the lives George had touched.

We never know in our life who we have touched or encouraged along the way.

Recently Mr. Denzel Washington was on television doing an interview for a new movie of his and he had taken a picture with an elderly woman on her 90th birthday. Jimmy Fallon asked him what the photo was about. Mr. Washington’s response was that this was the lady who given him his first library card when he was seven years old.

He then said how we don’t know how we touch a life, how even just a smile or an act of kindness can really touch someone else.

 

4. CIRCUMSTANCES DIDN’T CHANGE, HIS PERSPECTIVE DID. 

George sees his world as it would have been had he never been born. He realizes his life had affected so many, after this realization all he desires is to return back to his life, no matter the fate he will face. 

Nothing in his life circumstances had changed. George still didn’t know where the lost money was and most likely he would be arrested. But he was thankful to be home.

George makes his iconic run through Bedford Falls yelling Merry Christmas to everyone, and even to Mr. Potter. jimmy_stewart_in_its_a_wonderful_life

We often hear the saying your attitude towards your circumstance is what makes all the difference. What about the circumstances you had nothing to do with? George had done nothing wrong, Uncle Billy had misplaced the money but George was paying the consequence. He decided it was better to go to prison than to have never been born. George seeing his family again was all that mattered to him, returning to his life was all he wanted.

 

5. DREAMS DIDN’T COME TRUE, BUT HE HAD A HAPPY ENDING. 

Many times in life we have this idea of what will make us happy, if we achieve this accomplishment or if we get the new house or boat or vacation it will make all of our dreams come true.

George didn’t achieve any of his dreams. Everything he wanted to do and have he didn’t have, he didn’t get. He could have became a mopey person because he didn’t get what he wanted but instead he chose to make a difference in other people’s lives. George did have a wonderful life and he gave a wonderful life of hope to many other people too.

He may have not achieved his dreams, but he had a happy ending.

 

 

To all of you, watch this movie!

Rather you have seen it before or you haven’t. Enjoy your Christmas. Love one another and make the best of what you have today because you never know what tomorrow may bring. Merry Christmas. 

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