Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?
Clarence, It’s A Wonderful Life
Frank Capra’s iconic It’s A Wonderful Life remains my favourite Christmas film of all time, just ahead of Die Hard. (I’m not joking.) It’s a fantastic feel-good movie for a post-World War II audience – it was first released in 1946 – that tells a simple, heart-warming story about an ordinary man’s impact on those around him.
In the film, George Bailey (James Stewart) is driven to the point of suicide by a life-long series of setbacks that leaves him deaf in one ear and with his dreams of going to college thwarted at every turn before his uncle’s error leaves him facing financial ruin and prison. But his guardian angel Clarence shows him what would have happened if he had never been born, revealing the positive impact he has had on so many people’s lives. Ultimately the fellow citizens of Bedford Falls rally around George to save his situation, showing him how many people’s lives he has touched.
The point made by the film is a universal one. Many of us live ordinary lives and never get to fulfill our dreams. For some, even everyday life is a struggle to make ends meet. Life is never perfect and rarely easy.
But the mark we leave on the world can be measured in more than our personal circumstances and material possessions. Everything we do, everything we say has an effect on those around us that ripples out far beyond our ability to see it. Our children and our friends’ lives are (hopefully) enriched by our presence. Twee as it may be to say, it really is a wonderful life.