Being George Bailey

Remembering What’s Important At This Time Of Year

By Jerry Lambert

(This is an article I wrote last year on another blog.  I thought it was appropriate to repost it.  I hope you enjoy it!)

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While walking my crazy dog Skittles this morning, I was struck by the character of George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  As I’m sure you know, the character of George Bailey was played by the master of understatement, Jimmy Stewart.  What I thought about this morning was that George Bailey was a man who always did the selfless, generous thing, and he resented it.

George throws a couple of “Fits” during the movie.  The first one is when he confronts his bride-to-be, Mary.  He loves her, but realizes that life with her will be the end of many of his goals and dreams.  This conflict within him results in a rather rough treatment of Mary before he finally breaks down and confesses his love for her.

George’s initial bad attitude that evening stems from the fact that his brother Harry, who George was counting on to take over the Bailey Brothers Building & Loan, has come home from college with a wife, and a job.  That, in addition to an embarrassing conversation with Violet Bick, has gotten him into a foul mood before he stops by to see Mary.

George gives up his dreams for others’ benefit.  While this results in George wedding Mary and living an exemplary life, it also increases George’s frustration that he was meant for “Bigger Things”.  Mr. Potter catches George in a weak moment and offers him a job as his “Right Hand Man”.  George considers the idea for a minute, thinking about the money, travel, and fantastic lifestyle that he and Mary would have if he was working for Potter.  Then reality hits him and he realizes that “his ship would come in” but everyone else in Bedford Falls, who depend on him, would be destroyed by Potter.  This results in George calling Potter a “Scurvy Spider” as he storms out of his office.

As the years go by, George becomes resigned to the fact that he will never see his big dreams come true.  He is happy that God has blessed him with a beautiful wife, and 4 beautiful children.  He isn’t happy with his job at the Building & Loan, but he realizes how important it is to the citizens of Bedford Falls.

Everything comes to a head when Uncle Billy accidentally gives Potter $8,000 that was meant for a bank deposit.  Uncle Billy and George retrace his steps, but to no avail.  Even though Uncle Billy was the one who lost the money, George is facing prison, because he is the Executive Secretary of the Building & Loan.  He could have tried to throw Uncle Billy under the bus, but he wouldn’t do it.  Instead, after hearing Potter say, “You’re worth more dead than alive!”  George loses it when he gets home from work.  He yells at Mary and the kids and storms out of the house.  Then, George is standing on the bridge contemplating suicide.  Why was this happening to him?  Hasn’t he been selfless and generous his whole life?  This is his reward?  Realizing the economic and social catastrophe he was about to inflict on his family, George utters the immortal words, “I wish I’d never been born!”

It is only after this statement, that George sees the positive impact that he has made on the lives of his family and friends.  This realization hits home as the whole town shows up to rescue him and Uncle Billy from financial ruin and jail.  Up until the moment when George has this epiphany, he still has a massive chip on his shoulder.  “Why me, God?  I’ve lived a good life, put others needs before my own, why am I being tortured like this?”  What George had never realized was that God had a different plan for his life.  If he embraced that plan, instead of fighting it his whole life, he would have been a whole lot happier.

I guess for me, what it all comes down to is that George was doing the right thing by living a generous, selfless life, but he was resentful of the life that he could have had.  Living your life by putting others needs before your own isn’t just a noble pursuit, it is the key to happiness in your own life.  This article is entitled, “Being George Bailey”.  Not the George Bailey who feels cheated by life, but the George Bailey who realizes that by putting others needs first, he truly has had “A Wonderful Life”.

This Christmas Season, I resolve to be more like George Bailey.  How about you?  I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

[I am taking off a couple of weeks for the Holidays.  My next post will be Monday, January 9.]

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