By: Josiah Mohr

Many reflective pieces of literature tend to have a remorseful or somber tone that brings the author and the reader to a place of contemplation. Sometimes the piece imagines a better future or reminisces over a memorable past, but not often enough is there a contemplative piece that brings life in its present state into positive perspective. Such an appreciative perspective would do good for many stressed, lonely, angsty, confused, or indifferent people. To remedy this lack of present perspective on what really matters in life, a lesson could well be learned from a particularly relatable character, hopefully providing us with some revelation on the matter.

Allow me to tell the story of a character by the name of George Bailey, the main protagonist of the cult classic film “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946). His is a story all too familiar to many of us. The beginning of the movie communicates George’s ambitions and dreams to travel the world, to gain personal enlightenment, and to build the biggest buildings in the world. But George also admirably holds an unwavering commitment to his family and his community. Preparing to fulfill those very dreams of travel and education, George gets news that his father, a benevolent loan banker, has suddenly died. To prevent the closing of the generous Bailey Building and Loan business that his father started, George decides he must stay in order to keep the business open and preserve the legacy of his father to empower and advocate for the underprivileged. And so begins his settled life, certainly not the one he envisioned but nevertheless a successful one — that is, until a crisis strikes his family’s business, putting his entire life in jeopardy of falling apart.
Disaster strikes when an employee misplaces a large sum of money. With the bank examiner preparing to review the business, George Bailey envisions a potential criminal charge of fraud. Through both the suppression of his life dreams and this financial debacle, it becomes convincingly clear to George that his dreams will soon be entirely out of reach and that the supplementary life he made with his family will be taken from him as well. With the belief that his integrity has been shattered and that he is destined for jail, George decides that he can’t stand to live such a life. As the stress, the loneliness, the anxiety, the confusion, and the indifference crowd his mind, he sees no escape but to end it all in an icy river.
Within such desperate thought, George fails to see the blessing that he is to so many people. He fails to see the wonder in his wife, his family, his community, and his business — fails to see his own wonderful life.
In order to understand this, George had to see a glimpse of the community’s existence without him it. He is given the opportunity to experience an alternative reality that showed the effects of his absence. To his astonishment, the community looked horrifically unrecognizable, dominated by immorality, uncharacteristic personalities, an inflated economy, the death of many individuals, and the absence of so many more.
Much like George, we too often discredit ourselves and fail to see the ripple effect that each of our lives has in the communities in which we participate. Like George, we look to the past to see what we had or what we missed, and we look to the future in search of gratification or potential. But what we fail to do — once again, much like George — is rest in the present and take the time to gain a perspective on our current circumstances.
Returning to the reality of his broken but existing life, George Bailey finds a community that is very much concerned about him. He finds a community that is willing to show exponentially more care than he was ever able to give them, providing the funds to cover the finances that were accidentally lost from the business. Within that community, he finds redemption and resurrection, providing him with a new perspective, a new passion, and a new purpose in life.

What, then, in our present situations could inspire a fresh, appreciative, and present posture? A good place to start would certainly be in the communities in which we have invested ourselves. Maybe from there we can begin to see that, despite the very normal and expected stress, loneliness, angst, confusion, and indifference that all too often permeate our mundanely perceived lives, it truly is a wonderful life that is worth living.

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