Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life

Earlier this month, I observed — in passing — that the Christmas season isn't complete for some people until they have seen "It's a Wonderful Life."

I've been writing a lot about Christmas lately — and, as a warning to my regular readers, I plan to post a Christmas message at my Freedom Writing blog on Friday.

But today, I feel moved to write about "It's a Wonderful Life" — because tomorrow is the 63rd anniversary of its theatrical release.

I don't know if it is Frank Capra's best–known, best–loved or just plain best movie. In Capra's life — which even a casual observer would have to concede was pretty wonderful — he directed many movies that are considered classics today. Several were recognized at the time, and three, including "It's a Wonderful Life," are on the American Film Institute's list of the Top 100 movies of all time.

I think it is safe to say, though, that it would be hard for anyone to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and not feel moved or inspired.

The story is about something that many people have contemplated at some point. George Bailey (memorably played by James Stewart), who has repeatedly sacrificed his dreams and goals for the benefit of others, is at his lowest point on Christmas Eve and is thinking about ending his life. He believes everyone would have been better off if he had never been born.

Unknown to him, though, all those people whose lives have been affected by his presence are begging God to intervene on his behalf, and an angel named Clarence is sent to earth to convince George that he has made a real difference in the lives of his friends and family and his hometown.

In the end, George is persuaded that it is true, which has always kind of reminded me of a line from another classic motion picture, "The Wizard of Oz." Near the end of that movie, the wizard is talking to the Tin Woodman, who has been looking for a heart. The wizard tells his lovelorn friend that one's heart "is not judged by how much you love — but by how much you are loved by others."

And George realizes that, with the exception of his nemesis, Henry Potter, he is, indeed, loved by many — and that he is, in the words of his brother, "the richest man in town."

Christmas never comes at a time when life is great for everyone on the planet. Even in the best, most prosperous times, there are always people who have no job, no home, only the clothes they are wearing to protect them from the elements, only the food scraps they find in garbage bins to satisfy their gnawing hunger.

And these aren't the best of times.

In what remains of this Christmas season, if you've been blessed enough to have things that others can only dream of, I urge you to share some of your bounty with the less fortunate.

And, if you haven't seen "It's a Wonderful Life" this holiday season, you can see it this Thursday at 7 p.m. (Central) on your NBC station.