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Why is a Wonderful Life a must see movie. It is corny. It is in black and white, there are no 3D Blue Avatar’s flying around. Why would anyone want to watch it some 60 years after it was made?

I offer you three life lessons I take from the story. They are not profound or deep, and I have no idea if the director intended any of them as lessons. These are just three nuggets I take away from having watched George Baily and Zuzu’s petals over the years:

Lesson 1: Our problems are seldom as big as they appear.

“Where’s that money, you stupid, silly old fool? Where’s the money? Do you realize what this means? It means bankruptcy and scandal and prison! That’s what it means. One of us is going to jail! Well, it’s not gonna be me!” George Baily to Uncle Bily

The moment above is George’s breaking point. All seems lost and he lashes out at hapless Uncle Billy. The lesson here is that life sends us all sorts and manner of problems. George Baily’s plans are interrupted time and again by problems that he seems to be the only solution for and in his unselfish way stays behind in Bedford Hills to solve.

This time is different for George. He sees no way out. He will be judged a failure and worst a criminal. All he sees is the problem.Mr. Potter points out to George that he is worth more dead than alive.( Click here for a short clip of George and Mr. Potter)

The life lesson for me here is that the problems in our life are seldom- notice the use of the word seldom- as big as they appear. With the gift of time and reflection, we can almost always come to see our way through life’s problems and challenges.

Lesson 2: We never truly know the extent of our impact on others:

“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?” Clarence to George

George Baily had no idea how his life had impacted the world around him. He was clueless as to how bleak the future of the little town of Bedford Falls would have been if he had never been born. Many of us discount our own importance in the lives of others. We fail to see how the smallest acts of kindness can cause a change in others and how these gifts of kindness can multiply in their impact.

Lesson 3: There are times we are called to be a friend and others when we need to call on our friends.

* [Inscribed in a copy of Tom Sawyer] “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence

Here is the great gift Clarence gives to George. He helps our weary hero to realize that he is a success because he has lived a life of being a good friend to others. George offers the hand of friendship to those he meets, and as a result he has impacted their lives. In the final scene of the movie, his friends gather around him in his time of need- George reaps what he has spent a lifetime planting- the gift of friendship.

As a consequence of this Wonderful Life, not an easy life but a wonderfully lived life, Harry Baily, George’s younger brother, arrives at the gathering and raises a glass and invites all the friends of the George to: “A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town!”

Here is the original trailer of It’s a Wonderful Life:

One Response to “It’s a Wonderful Life: Three Lessons”

  1. Matt G says:

    Hi Deacon Mike

    I watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” last night with my wife. It is an absolutely touching tale that certainly, though implicitly, keeps the “Christ” in Christmas. Thank you very much for your reflections regarding the film. They actually prompted me to think about the ultimate Friend, that is that little baby born long ago to a virgin. When that baby grew up he definitively showed that “no man is a failure who has friends.” He even laid down his life for his friends, for us. He cared so dearly for his friends that he died for them. He died for us. He looked like a failure to many as he suffered and died on a cross. He, however, was and is no failure. He demolished failure. He crushed death beneath his feet. He reconciled his friends, he reconciled us, in the Spirit to His Father. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, is our Friend who promises us all that we are his friends if we follow his example to love others. He promises us that we are his friend if were are friends to others (cf. John 15:12-17).

    Pax Christi,