Why the Meaning of It’s a Wonderful Life Still Resonates in Today’s World

“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.” “What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word, and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.” 

These three quotes come from one of the most beloved Christmas movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. Since its premiere in 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life has been shown on big and small screens during the holiday season. It is a traditional film shown on television every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember and is based on the short story, The Greatest Gift and A Christmas Carol. In this movie, down on his luck businessman George Bailey is visited by an angel. George sees what life would have been like for his family and friends if he had never existed. George’s viewpoint on life quickly changes after he discovers the impact he has had on those around him. Although unsuccessful at the box office, this heartwarming tale has become a holiday mainstay throughout the years and is now considered to be one of the greatest films of all time and one of the best Christmas films. 

There are many reasons as to why It’s a Wonderful Life has remained in people’s hearts, but the most important thing that still resonates with people is its message. Digging down deeper, the film is a story about friendships, fellowships and community. Growing up and throughout his adult life, George Bailey dreamt of leaving his hometown and traveling throughout the world. Each time George decides to venture away, he is quickly pulled back in by his responsibilities to his family and town. In addition, George is filled with the moral duty of doing what is right in every situation; no matter if he doesn’t come out the winner. Taking over his family’s building and loan bank, George continued to put others before himself, mostly when it came to money. As the film progresses, George realizes that his dreams have passed him by and contemplates suicide. Yet, once the angel, Clarence, visits him, George finally notices how his dreams did come true and how he does have a “wonderful life.” “You see George, you really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”

This meaning resonates with people because we may not think we have had an impact on those around us, but in reality, we have. George’s actions and decisions are ones made from love, family and friendship. He did what he had to do in order to survive. Our daily lives are filled with things to do from sunup to sundown. We are constantly busy with numerous pressures and decisions to make, just like George’s life. However, when we slow down and take everything in, we are given the chance to see our influence on others and what we truly mean to them. What may seem small or insignificant to us may have made the biggest impression on someone else. One of my favorite quotes from the film is when Clarence tells George, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” 

George Bailey’s life and troubles mirror many people’s in today’s world. Our days are often filled with stress, concerns and worries. We are all trying to do the best that we can in a tough world. But, when we take the time, we will realize just how lucky we are to be here. We realize that our loved ones would have a void in their lives without us and that their lives could have been altered without having us around. 

The moral of the story? Take time to tell others what they mean to you and the impact they have had on you this Christmas season. This simple act of kindness can change someone’s day and possibly life. 

As George’s brother, Harry Bailey, says at the end of the movie, “A toast to my big brother George, the richest man in town.” Thank you, George Bailey, for always reminding us to let others know just how much they mean to us and for always showing us how doing the right thing does have an impact in the end.

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