What ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ taught me about myself

“It’s a Wonderful Life” illustrated how a person can forget all of the good in their life in a moment of despair. It is well known as a Christmas film, but for me, George Bailey is a version of myself. I’ve been at that precipice too. 

I have had many bouts of depression throughout my life. It has been years since I have felt that way for any length of time, but I’ve still had some tough days. Ultimately, what pulled me through were friends, family and sometimes faith. I also have a purpose now. I help others improve their mental health through counseling and support groups. 

George Bailey always tried to be a good man, but he was haunted by his regrets and the “what ifs”. Each of George’s acts of kindness had a ripple effect on others. For example, George Bailey saved his brother’s life when they were children and then his brother went on to save countless lives in the military during WWII. He stopped a pharmacist from accidentally giving poison to a child. This aspect of the film is very interesting to me. When I have felt depressed, it was incredibly hard to see the good in my life and my contributions.

George Bailey as a kid in “It’s A Wonderful Life”

When George lost his opportunities to leave Bedford Falls, it shook him to his core. It was a reminder that even a very good person has setbacks and even failures. George never stopped trying to help others and he does all the “right things”.

Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life”

After suffering a grave monetary setback and a terrible encounter with Mr. Potter, he decided that he was worth more dead than alive. He had his insurance policy. Then we hear the voices of the people who care for him praying for his well-being. We see the stars in the sky seem to talk to one another about his plight and they decide to send him help. 

Clarence and other angels in “It’s A Wonderful Life”
Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life”

When I thought about ending my life, I thought about my funeral and who would come. It was a very morbid thought. I wanted to know who would be sad if I was gone. That gave me the insight to not hurt my loved ones.

At the point when he felt so hopeless, Clarence, his guardian angel, came to save him. I’ve had Clarences too. It was in the simple kindness of a stranger saying, “God bless you” or the compliment that came out of the blue. Clarence has come in many forms for me. Sometimes he was a rabbi, a homeless woman, or an old friend. They reminded me that I had value and that my existence did make the world a little better.

Clarence

Clarence appears in the form of an older, simple man who speaks in a frank, kind way. He sees George’s suffering and aims to show him how the world would be different without him. At first George can’t believe that he just doesn’t exist anymore. When he does see how awful the world is without him, he knows that he wants to live again. 

Every year, when I watch this film, I cry happy tears when George prays to return to his life. It is so precious to be loved, cared for and appreciated. I identify with his struggle and also his realization that his life has a purpose. 

When he returns home to a house full of friends and family, he realizes his worth and his place in the world. When his brother says, “Here’s to George! The richest man in town”, it clear that it has nothing to do with money. 

“It’s A Wonderful Life”

The inscription on the Bible Clarence gave him said, “Remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Clarence.” He is rich with friends and family who love him. It is by far my favorite part of the movie, because it reminds me of my own dear friends and loved ones and how they create meaning in my life. It shows what matters most. It is clear that George has been shown his true purpose in life and the path he was meant to take. More than accepting this, he revels in it. He knew what it was like to have lost it all and that was devastating. 

This movie never fails to remind me to be hopeful and to be grateful for the people in my life.

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