Merry Christmas, dear friends! I can’t believe that in just a couple of hours, it will all be a memory. I didn’t marathon Christmas movies this year like I usually do, but this was the first year I ever watched the classic It’s a Wonderful Life.
Although the list of classic films I’ve viewed is shamefully short, this one is now a favorite. It made me laugh, more than I expected a movie from 1946 to, and it’s kept me thinking since I finished it. If you’re like I was, and aren’t yet familiar with the story, here’s a quick summary:
George Bailey dreams of attending college and traveling around the world, but circumstances continually leave him stuck in his tiny hometown, Bedford Falls. Years pass, and with them, many opportunities George must pass by. One Christmas, everything he’s tried to hold together falls apart. Left with only ruin and the worst luck ever, George wonders if the world and his family would be better off without him. Then Clarence shows up on the scene, sent from Heaven to help George. The angel grants George’s wish of never being born, and in doing so, helps George realize how much his life truly means.
Even 68 years after its release, there’s something about the story of George Bailey and Bedford Falls that resonates. I think we all feel like George at times. Desiring to try new things and explore different horizons, we work and plan for those dreams, saving up and counting down. Yet as much as we talk about “dreaming big” and how “dreams don’t work unless you do,” not all dreams actually do work.
I know, Christmas is the season of dreams coming true; of magic in the air and miracles everywhere. I fully believe that dreams can and do come true, but I’ve also realized it isn’t always the case. Like it did with George Bailey, sometimes life happens. There are situations that require us to place down our dreams and pick up responsibilities.
When we want to escape the sameness, but that’s where we are needed, how do make the best of it? When we’re going through the day-to-day, yet everyone else is going off on adventures, how do we keep going? When nothing seems to work out, none of our dreams have come true, and even what we sacrificed them for is failing… what then? For George Bailey, it meant questioning everything- even life, and what good his had really done. It took an angel named Clarence to show him all the people he had impacted. Without George Bailey, everything was darker, emptier, poorer. As Clarence said, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
George finally comes to realize that even though he’s been stuck in Bedford Falls and has never toured Europe, attended college or became wildly successful in business, his life has value beyond measure. He wants to live again.
So he’s given a second chance at life… And it’s a Wonderful Life.
George’s story made me think about my own. Granted, George Bailey was approximately a couple of decades older than I am, but in some ways I still relate to the feeling of being in “Bedford Falls.” In this season of life, I’m just doing the “day-to-day.” There are people around me getting ready to leave, to chase their dreams somewhere new, but for right now, I’m remaining here in my Bedford Falls. When I’m quiet and honest with myself, I wonder if I’m really making a difference with my life. I question if there’s something else I should be doing, some bigger dream I should be pursuing right now. Have I failed in some way?
I haven’t had a visit from a kindly angel named Clarence, but watching the black-and-white classic was close. Clarence’s parting words stuck with me: “No man is a failure who has friends.”
George didn’t fulfill all of his dreams, but his life was still wonderful because of the countless others he touched. Perhaps the greatest impact we have can’t be measured by where we go or what we achieve. Maybe it’s in the lives we touch, some of which we will never know of.
Clarence probably won’t pay you a visit tonight, but maybe I can be Clarence for a moment? If you feel stuck in the same place, your “Bedford Falls”; if you’re thinking of all the unmet dreams, unchecked boxes, all the broken resolutions… Stop. For a moment, look over here instead. Look at the people around you. Every single one, from your elderly neighbors to your tiny cousins. I can guarantee that you have touched their lives. At the end of the day, you have made a difference. Maybe it wasn’t in the way you expected, but the fact remains that your life is immeasurably valuable. You have touched more people than you will ever know this side of heaven. Perhaps the person you chatted with in the checkout line desperately needed someone to show them kindness that day; maybe the student you shared lunch with wouldn’t have eaten otherwise or the waiter you tipped extra was down to his last dollar. Because of you, someone else may have kept going. God uses people to touch people, and you’ll likely never be aware of the numerous ways He has used you.
We all have dreams we’re chasing, but I think I’m starting to realize something. Even if I don’t catch my dreams… Even if things turn out differently than I expected… it’s a wonderful life.
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and that 2015 is a year of wonder! Thank you for being here, and reading this. In so doing, you have touched my life.
You are wonderful.