Last night, I had the pleasure of enjoying a favorite holiday tradition, Frank Capra’s classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart. Even though the movie first appeared in theaters more than seven decades ago, its timeless message is still relevant today, which is why the film remains a holiday favorite for so many of us.
The story hinges upon the travails of George Bailey, a good-hearted family man who despairs at the prospect of losing his business due to the actions of an unethical competitor. At his lowest point, George contemplates suicide, wondering whether the world would even notice if he wasn’t part of it.
A would-be angel Clarence, is dispatched from heaven to change George’s destiny by showing him how much poorer the world would be without his presence in it. Both Clarence and George Bailey are flawed individuals, and each has something to gain in this poignant story.
Clarence, an apprentice angel, hopes to finally earn his wings by saving George. George, on the other hand, must reach a decision to embrace living, by coming to the profound realization that his life enriches the world, and all those around him in his family and community. It is only by understanding that his life’s true value could only be measured by the inestimable worth placed on it by others, that he is able to overcome his despair.
The movie is a favorite of mine because it emphasizes that – flawed as we are – our lives are worth living; that we are surrounded by people who love us, and that we matter. We matter. We’re here on this Earth for a purpose, although that purpose is sometimes impossible for us to grasp. Each of us must play our own unique role in the world, big or small. Whether you’re a CEO, or a clerk, you have important contributions to make that will impact those around you.
From time to time, we all struggle and feel overwhelmed with life’s challenges. We lose sight of our rightful place in this world and of how much those surrounding us love and need us. That’s why the movie brings such a resonant message of hope.
At one point in the movie, George Bailey’s little girl, ZuZu comments, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” Clarence earned his by saving George; George grew by gaining greater clarity about the endless value of love and relationships, both within his family, and across his community.
It’s a Wonderful Life concludes with the cast singing the haunting anthem Auld Lang Syne, whose lyrics come from a beautiful Robert Burns poem written in 1788. As I watched the scene, I began to reflect back on 2017. I felt grateful for many things: the success of my memoir, Where the Water Meets the Sand, the value of many new relationships built, and the prospects for a new book scheduled for launch in October 2018.
I also looked back with a sense of loss and sadness at the passing of my precious mother, Dorothy Decker Foote, who departed this life on December 30, 2016 at the age of 94. The bittersweet news is that hers was a full and happy life, that she’s no longer suffering and that she was ready to ‘Go Home.”
I encourage you to listen to Auld Lang Syne. Contemplate the year that’s leaving us, and raise your glass high to hope for the New Year and for the fantastic future that awaits you. It’s just around the corner.
(c) Tyra Manning 2017