My very favorite movie in the whole world is “It’s A Wonderful Life”. It came out in 1946 and starred James Stewart and Donna Reed as George and Mary Bailey from Bedford Falls, a small midwestern town. In the movie George is the long-suffering older son in the family who longs to escape the confinement of the small town he was raised in. He feels suffocated by it and wants to get out and see the world and has no plans to return once he leaves. George’s best laid out plans to leave Bedford Falls are derailed time after time. He’s saddled with taking over the family run building and loan business even though he didn’t want to. He ends up marrying Mary Hatch, who has been in love with George since childhood, and they go on to have four children together. Running the family business, getting married and staying in Bedford Falls was never in George’s plan but that’s how things turned out for him. It took a life altering event to make George see that where he was is exactly where he was supposed to be.
The villain of the movie, Mr. Potter, is the town’s wealthy banker. He’s a miserable old man who has no joy in life. He’s out to bury the Bailey Building and Loan. That business has provided the families of Bedford Falls loans to build their homes for many years and has worked with them all during difficult financial times. The Bailey family is much-loved in the town and this rattles Mr. Potter immensely. When George’s bumbling Uncle Billy loses an $8000 cash deposit somewhere Mr. Potter sees that as his opportunity to take the Bailey’s down. George and the business are in serious trouble and George feels as if things would have been better had he never been born. He goes to a bridge in town and decides to throw himself in the river to end his misery and rid the town of him and his self-imagined failures.
As George contemplates jumping off the bridge a man appears and tells him he’s his guardian angel. His name is Clarence Oddbody, Angel Second Class. He’s been sent to help George. But, George doesn’t believe him and thinks Clarence is just a crazy old man. He tells Clarence that he should have never been born. Clarence jumps into the river to make George save him. After Clarence is saved he tells George his wish of having never been born has been granted. He goes on to show George how the town ended up with no George Bailey to help it. More importantly, he shows George how his non-existence impacted his family and loved ones. He wasn’t there that fateful day on the frozen river to save his younger brother Harry from drowning. He wasn’t there for his mother, who never recovered from the loss of her young son’s drowning. He wasn’t there for Mary to fall in love with and she ended up a sad, lonely old woman. His children were never born and the town is a mess, controlled by the evil Mr. Potter. The idyllic Bedford Falls does not exist as George knew it…..it is instead called Pottersville, a poor, depressed town with no hope. Clarence explains to George that every persons life touches others in some way or another. Your life impacts the world around you much more than you can imagine and you never being born can have catastrophic consequences. It’s like the ripple effect when you throw a stone into the water. Though the stone lands in one tiny spot its effect on the things surrounding it reach far and wide.
In my own life I’ve been through plenty of ups and downs. Until earlier this year I would have said that most of it had been downs instead of ups. I viewed it this way because I was trapped in the cycle of negative thinking. It wasn’t until I broke that cycle that I began to see the bigger picture around me and exactly how much I had been helped along the way. Those people who helped me are the Clarence’s of the world. They are the ones who have been sent to help us George’s along in our journey; to pick us up after we’ve fallen. Their presence in your life can last for mere seconds or from the time you take your first breath until you draw your last. Each of those Clarence’s serve a specific purpose in your life. I am thankful and grateful for all my Clarence’s, both past and present, and I look forward to the ones in my future. Personally, I aspire to be more of a Clarence than a George. I’ve been a George for way too long. I hope that The Micah Principle can be a Clarence for many people. It already has been for me since the idea of it came barreling into my head a few weeks ago like a freight train. I hope that The Micah Principle will bring amazing new people into my life and that I will call those people friends.
My favorite line in “It’s A Wonderful Life” comes at the end of the movie. George realizes how much his life DID matter and wished to be alive again, back with his family in his beloved Bedford Falls. He, Mary, their children, family and friends are all gathered around the Christmas tree in the Bailey home. There’s a book that appears on the table in front of George. He opens it and reads the following inscription that’s written inside; “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings! Love Clarence”. George realizes at that exact moment how much his friends did mean to him and he to them; that he had enriched their lives just as much as they had enriched his. The friends we have will be a Clarence or a George or both. Whichever they are doesn’t really matter because we are all richer for their presence in our lives.