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It's a Wonderful Life

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
George Bailey was given a special gift. He had a chance to see how things might have turned out if he had never been born.

This fictional scenario is played out in one of my favorite movies; Frank Capra's, "It's a Wonderful Life." The main character, George (portrayed by Jimmy Stewart), is a likable young man who would do anything for anybody. His main goal however, is to go out and see the world, and get away from his hometown of Bedford Falls, New York.
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Circumstances seem to always prevent George from getting away and after he is wed to Mary (actress Donna Reed), he becomes a father and is never able to leave Bedford Falls. As the president of a little savings and loan company, he becomes content with helping the local citizens get ahead in life. Most of George's time is spent fighting the villain, old man Potter, who is trying to buy up everything in town in an effort to keep the poor folks renting from him and living in his slums.

The movie has a message and it's a good one at this special time of the year, or anytime for that matter. Treat others as you would like to be treated - giving is better than taking - there is a God and He loves us all. George Bailey soon realized that all these things are true.

At the lowest point in his life, when he is falsely accused of embezzling funds from the savings and loan, George keeps wishing he had never been born. He decides to commit suicide by leaping from a bridge. And he may have done so, had not God intervened and sent him an angel by the name of Clarence. You see, Clarence jumped off the bridge before George and the would-be suicide attempt was prevented. In fact, George jumped in and saved Clarence.

The story goes that if Clarence could do a good job of turning George's life around he could finally earn his angel wings. This unlikely heavenly messenger, who claimed to be over 200 years old, showed George Bailey what the world would have been like if he (Bailey) had never been born. This is something that we should all ponder - what would the world be like, had we never been born?

George found out that indeed his life did make a difference. One of the many special moments in the film occurs when Clarence and George find themselves at the local graveyard. One of the headstones has the name "Harry Bailey" engraved on it - the age at death being around nine or ten years old.

George stares unbelievingly, at the headstone, because this was his little brother and he knew he had saved Harry from drowning when Harry was about that age. It seems Harry went on to be a fighter pilot in World War II. He shot down an enemy plane just as it was about to attack a ship carrying some 1500 soldiers.

The tenderhearted old angel reminded George that because he got his wish of never being born, he wasn't around to save Harry. And because Harry had died, he wasn't there to save the 1500 men from the attack and as a result they all perished.

I guess most people don't take the time to consider these things, but they are so true. We are all important - every one of us! From the poorest to the richest we all touch someone else's life. What we do or the things we say, no matter how insignificant they may seem, can leave a lasting impression on others.

The old movie, released during the Christmas holiday in 1946, made me aware of just how much we all need one another. "It's a Wonderful Life" director Frank Capra said it best: "Each man's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around it leaves an awful hole."
When our kids were little, it was a rule that this movie would be viewed at least once during the holidays. It's a tradition that I hope they will pass on to their children.

The classic film will probably be on television sometime before Christmas Eve. If you've never seen it, I encourage you to do so - it has a happy ending.

Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary >
December 6, 2006 Column
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