I took my own advice and focused the last few days on contacting those I care about and doing the things that I SHOULD be doing instead of just what I want to do (like writing!). Today I’m playing catch up so consider this a two-fer, talking about two of my favorite stories instead of just one.
It’s a Wonderful Life has much in common with A Christmas Carol in that both stories allow their protagonists to step outside their lives and look back in like looking through a window.
I want to do that.
Of course, I don’t really want to be Ebenezer Scrooge because his ghosts show him how he has messed up, and I can give you the long list of my mistakes without a ghostly visit. But George Bailey gets a look at what life would have been like if he had never been born, and I just might like to see that. Let’s look at what doesn’t happen if George isn’t born:
- He would never have married and his children would never have been born. He sees his wife as a spinster librarian, and the house they fixed up as a ruin.
- His brother would have died in the accident in the pond. All of the men he saved on the aircraft carrier would have died. And George’s mother would wind up a bitter old woman whose only son died as a small child.
- Mr. Gower, the pharmacist, would have sent out the pills with poison in them and killed the person on the receiving end. Then he would have gone to prison for murder.
And so it goes on. George Bailey got to see that his life was a pretty cool thing, and he did lots of good that he didn’t even realize. I hope that my life would be as meaningful if I had the chance to stand outside and look in.
Scrooge, on the other hand, gets a look at what life as been like because he was born. Not so great as it turns out. George has to realize how great he is, but Scrooge has to realize how awful he is. Let’s look at what Scrooge has to put right:
- He has so abused Bob Cratchitt that his family is barely getting by. His young son desperately needs medical attention that Bob can’t afford on his pitiful salary, and may well die without proper care.
- He has spurned his nephew over and over, although he loved his sister dearly and owes her much in terms of bringing him back into the family fold. God bless his nephew who never gives up on his grumpy uncle. At least one of them remembers Fannie’s loving legacy.
- Though wealthy, he has repeatedly turned away those collecting for the poor. He is most definitely not his brothers’ keeper.
Two such opposite men, George Bailey and Ebenezer Scrooge, but both require spiritual intervention to save their lives. What does that say? It says that good or bad, we never see ourselves as others see us. It says that we never know the impact, both good and bad, that we are having on those around us, even those whom we do not know. It says that kindness and understanding are far more powerful than we can imagine, even going so far as giving us the ability to change the future. Finally it says that truth is sometimes hard to come by when you are mired in the sludge of everyday life. It might just take a kick in the pants, or an otherworldly visit, to haul you out of the swamp and back onto dry land.
I love both of these stories, because they invoke the magic of a season that invites us to reflect on the things that really matter in life. I think perhaps what can happen as a result of those reflections is truly magical in the most wonderful, amazing, heart-stirring way.