Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" is one of my all-time favorite films. But I think that people take it too much at face value without thinking more deeply on the significance of the message. Also, I think that when extrapolating the message of IAWL and applying it to their own lives, most people think of it in only one dimension—as a retrospective. We look back at our lives and think or wonder how our lives might have effected others--the way we learn that George's life has effected others.
One of my favorite inspirational quotes (not from IAWL but from a book entitled “Wild Mind” by Natalie Goldberg who quotes her teacher) is from the Zen Master, Katagiri Roshi; he said, "Make positive effort for the good." He meant that in every way possible, every day we should try to make an effort to do good things--to wake up smiling, to look for opportunities, to make effort—even if we fail.
IAWL has the opportunity to teach us a lesson for tomorrow, not just yesterday. George Bailey did all those wonderful things for people without ever trying--just by being himself he did good deeds and was a blessing in the lives of others. Imagine the ever blossoming, expansive impact he could've had if he had actually tried to do good deeds--if with a conscious effort he'd become active not merely passive in his positive efforts. Think how much more he could have done…
And Mary Bailey--why, she's the model of an activist, and a damn fine one! Look what she is able to accomplish in just an evening. She takes the message to the people and educates them regarding the situation of need. Not a thought given to looking foolish--she just goes and talks to people. Then, those she reaches out to mobilize and tell others not only in their community, but beyond it--a call goes to Washington D.C. (to George's brother) as well as to a wealthy, sympathetic friend, a benefactor, who can afford to help fund the cause (contacted by Mr. Gower, the druggist). Finally, the town's people, who separately and individually could never have afforded to help financially, by uniting their nickels, dimes and dollar bills are able to more than make up the deficit.
"It's a Wonderful Life" shows not only the value hidden inherent in every single life, but demonstrates the potential available in each life as well. Take it not only as a message of hope that "each man's life touches so many other lives…" but as an inspiration for further and deliberate action. Strive to make yours "a wonderful life" so that someday you may look back, seeing and knowing that your life has touched other lives (human and non-human). And make positive effort for the good.
"Every man's life touches so many other lives that
when he isn't around it leaves an awful hole..."
~ Clarence Odbody, A-S2