Night before last the girls and I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t think I had ever watched the entire movie. I know I had not watched any of it in years. By the end, I think everyone enjoyed it but it was obvious the girls weren’t that interested the first hour and a half.
On the other hand, I was soaking it all in. I remembered that the movie was about George Bailey being upset about something job related and then being shown what life would have been like in his community if he’d never been born. I knew it was an eye-opening experience for him by seeing the difference he had made in the lives of others.
However, I didn’t remember the level of self-sacrifice involved. I didn’t recall that he denied his hopes and dreams for the “greater good” of so many others – his family, friends and even strangers. In a world filled with “it’s all about me and what I want” mentality, George Bailey stood- and continues to stand- in stark contrast. No, he didn’t get to go explore the world, do all that he wanted to do and shake the dust off of his feet from that little town. Sure – he missed that fulfillment of dreams and mentioned it from time to time but he didn’t pout and whine or become bitter about all that he missed out on in life. Look at what he gained. He had the love and respect of his family and the entire community. In the end, I think that was more than “enough” for him.
He wasn’t a doormat for others. He wasn’t a weakling. He was strong enough to put others above his own ambition. A weak person doesn’t work to build others up like he did. He wanted to build buildings but what he helped build had a much broader, lasting and a more personal impact. He missed out on a lot but look what he got in return. George Bailey wasn’t a religious man and this isn’t a religious movie but the message is clear. When you put others before yourself, everyone benefits.
I want to be a George Bailey and I want that for my girls as well. I want us to be strong enough to deny ourselves and our own “wants” for the betterment of others, if needed. I want us to build others up and not focus only on what we want to happen. It isn’t our nature but I hope we can be strong enough to do the right things and be selfless even when we don’t feel like it. I hope we all four make long-lasting, positive impact on others. I don’t want this in order to have money thrown at me in times of need or status in the community (like what happened in the movie) but for the fulfillment in seeing that choosing others over “self” is a worthwhile endeavor. I want us to do this without whining, pouting, sulking, complaining and in general, being unhappy about what we didn’t get to do. By living sacrificially, you may not get instant gratification. You’re still going to suffer at times. But the rewards can be far-reaching, life changing and eternal.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13