Bernie and I watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” last night. Granddaughter Emma was with us, the first to arrive for today’s Christmas celebration. She’d never seen the movie before and Bernie was delighted to see that we actually own our own DVD, forgetting that I’d purchased it about 3 Christmases ago. It is a long movie and adding commercials really makes for a long night.
Long as it is, it is like eating a gourmet meal, every bite more savory than the one before. We kept telling Emma, “Pay attention to this part – you will have to remember it later.”
What is it about this classic film that is so endearing, so powerful? I think it has to do with the fact that each of us has a desire to believe that our life has meaning. We like to think that what we do makes a difference in the world. What “Life” teaches us is that we do make a difference in ways we ourselves cannot imagine. We’ve been watching old episodes of Quantum Leap and that is about Sam, the scientist caught in leaping into the past where he is called to change history for the better. George Bailey of “Life” receives the gift of knowing how he changed history. Sam is given the gift of actually being conscious of what he is doing, what he is altering.
Most of us don’t have such experiences of revelation. Once in a while, someone comes back to tell us that something we have done or words we have spoken were helpful to them. That always feels good. I don’t know about you, but often I cannot recall the event or I remember the words I spoke with a totally different intention than what they recall. How we impact the world is a mystery.
Another favorite film is “Groundhog Day,” in which Bill Murray’s character lived through the same day over and over again until he finally surrendered and stopped trying to control things. He learned to put one step in front of the next, doing good when the opportunity presented itself, not worrying about getting credit, not concerned about outcomes. He learned to live in the day, in the moment. He did not need the pat on the back or the great revelation of his own worth. Life itself is all that mattered.
These are three great fictional stories that have impacted my life and I can add them to the story of Scrooge that I mentioned in a previous blog. The writers, the producers and actors and actresses have no clue. But I am who I am, in a profound way, because they did what they loved to do, leaving the many outcomes to another power.