It’s (still) a wonderful life

Growing up, I thought Donna Reed was the most beautiful woman and Jimmy Stewart was the most handsome man in the world. I thought the pair of them, their characters George and Mary Bailey, made the best couple in my favorite movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” They were two genuinely good people. Or at least their characters were. But to a kid infatuated with movies, that’s just one and the same. Yes, and I also thought “It’s A Wonderful Life” was the greatest movie ever made. Actually, I still do think all those things, except now I can successfully differentiate between the fictional world of movies and the people who bring these worlds to life. Sometimes anyway. 

All this brings me to my main point of how “It’s A Wonderful Life” is simply a great movie, regardless of whether or not it’s the best movie ever made (which it is). It’s also so much more than a movie that comes on TV every Christmas Eve. In fact, there’s so much more to it than Christmas.

With the holiday season now officially over, we can all move on from the hustle and bustle of buying presents for our loved ones, scrambling to wrap them in time and finding time to complete all our traditions. We can finally breathe and reflect on the good times we had, even though they went by too fast. As much trouble as Christmas may be at times, it’s all worth it. The Christmas spirit fills us with so much joy, love and cheer…but what happens once the new year hits? Where does it all go and more importantly, why?

If we pay attention to the ending of Charles Dickens’ classic, “A Christmas Carol,” we notice mean, old, yet recently reformed, Ebenezer Scrooge keeps Christmas alive the whole year in his heart, meaning he always cares for and loves his fellow human beings, no matter the day on the calendar. The lessons he learned from the three Spirits affected him not only on Christmas Day, but they stayed with him long after. Those good feelings and warmth should stay with us all year, too. Why aren’t we as generous, thoughtful and kind all year round as we are in December? 

George Bailey is. 

Which brings me back to “It’s A Wonderful Life.” If we sit and watch the movie and ignore all our preconceived notions that it’s just another feel-good Christmas movie, we can learn so much from George. He sacrificed his dreams for those he loves, he helped anyone who needed it with no questions asked, and he always put others before himself without a second thought. To me, that is an endearing example of the true spirit and meaning of Christmas. 

During the movie, George feels hopeless and contemplates what the world would be like without him. I’m sure we’ve all wondered at some point in our lives how much we truly mean to others and the impact we have on their lives. I know I have. And even though we can’t have a chance at experiencing the world without our presence, I think this movie teaches us that we are important, we do matter and we do change peoples’ lives for the better, sometimes simply with our presence. 

And let’s not forget Clarence, George Bailey’s guardian angel. I think it would do us all a world of good to remember his message to George at the end of the film. 

“No man is a failure who has friends,” Clarence writes in his gift to George. 

If you haven’t seen the movie, then please, watch it right away because the title of it really is true, and you just have to discover it for yourself. Be like Mr. Scrooge and keep the Christmas spirit, with love and selflessness, in your heart the whole year. You’ll be surprised at how good of a year it will be. 

And if you ever feel like you don’t have any friends, well, if you’re reading this, then I consider you mine. 

Amanda Larch can be contacted at [email protected].