Tuesday, December 17, 2013




It’s that wonderful time of year again. Time to sip hot cocoa on a snowy evening and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” with my family. As simple as this seems, slipping into a cozy evening at home – watching my favorite Christmas movie with my favorite people – is like living a dream.

For George Bailey, however, staying home was anything but a dream. He was chronically  frustrated because he had given up his life's dreams to stay in Bedford Falls.

But, this year as I watched again, I wondered. Did George really give up his dreams?

It seems that way. In the scene where George is walking Mary home from the high-school dance, he says:

“I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I’m comin’ back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long…”

George never does any of the things he dreamed about. And not only does George not see the world, he never ventures outside his hometown!

George lives a life, in fact, which seems antithetical to the purpose of this blog – to find your wings … to discover your passions … to fulfill your life’s dreams and desires … to go for it… at any age!

So how can “It’s a Wonderful Life” be my favorite Christmas movie?

Let's answer these key questions.

1 — Was George forced to stay in Bedford Falls?

2 — Was he a victim of circumstance, or did George make choices based on a deeper, perhaps hidden life passion?

 3 – Were the things George talked about (world travel, college, building bridges), really his dreams?

Let’s look at George’s reactions to several key life circumstances:

1 — Death of Pa Bailey: George was about to go on a trip to Europe when his father dies. George didn’t go, but he could have. George could have postponed his trip until some time after the funeral. He chooses, instead, to stay and take care of his father’s business, the Bailey Building and Loan Association.

2 — George walks away from two money-making opportunities: Sam Wainwright offers George a chance to invest in a phenomenal new product called plastics. George, instead, chooses to dedicate his time at the Building and Loan. Then, Mr. Potter, a slumlord and chief shareholder at the Building and Loan, offers George a high-paying job along with trips to Europe — part of George’s “dream. George chooses not to take the offer and, in fact, runs away from it as fast as he can when he realizes Potter’s plans to take over Bedford Falls.

George could have said “yes to either of these money-making opportunities. And, if he had, he would have acquired the means to travel around the world and attend college to study engineering. He could have “lived his dreams.

3 — George marries Mary. But he didn’t have to. In the early scene where he tells Mary what he wants to do in life, his plans don’t include her. They are all about George, George, George. He could have said his last good-byes to her the night he walked her home from the dance. But, in the end, George listens to his heart, not his head.

George’s choices are guided by the convictions of his heart — ones he may not have even known existed at the time he proclaimed, early on, that he was going to “shake the dust of this crummy little town.”

What are George’s core convictions?

Before facing the frightened and angry crowd during the bank-run scene, George looks at his father’s portrait.  Underneath it are the words: “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.” This phrase is the foundation of George’s core convictions throughout all aspects of his life:

1 — Marrying Mary is more important than a trip around the world.

2 — People’s lives and livelihoods matter more than a honeymoon trip.

3 — Upholding his father’s ideals is more important than high-paying jobs.

4 — Serving his community and saving it from evil forces and destruction are more important than making a fortune.

5 — Selling his soul for a high-paying job is never an option.

6 — Living a life of sacrifice for the benefit of others is 100 times more fulfilling than one based on selfish motives.

Ready for the crux of the movie? George’s guardian angel, Clarence, shows George how life in his community would have turned out — not only if George had never lived — but if George had left Bedford Falls to “live his dreams.”

If George had left Bedford Falls to travel the world and build airfields and skyscrapers and bridges...then:

1 – The Bailey Building and Loan would have collapsed and people would have lost their life savings.

2 – Mary would have lived a lonely life.

3 – The old house George and Mary bought and raised a family in would have remained in ruins.

4 – Bedford Falls would have become a honky-tonk Pottersville – the result of a greedy and evil leader.

5 – There would have been no Pete, Janie, Tommy and Zuzu.

6 – Clarence would never have gotten his wings.

And now are you ready for the super-crux of the movie?

Without knowing it – or perhaps knowing it on a subconscious level – George does fulfill his life’s dream, only in different ways. 

George said he was “gonna build things” – and he did.

He built a family and home life.

He built bridges between people and their life savings. 

He built ways for the people to keep their life savings.

He built so many friendships they could fill hundreds of airfields.

He built a life of service to others as tall as a skyscraper and saved a community he loved from collapse. 

He built a life based on character, integrity and honor.

He built a wonderful life.

In the end, Clarence finds his wings because he helped George realize he had found his wings all along …

Find your wings … at any age.


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