Whenever “It’s a Wonderful Life” is on television, I know it’s Christmas time. Normally, I’d write about the feel good Christmas aspect of the movie and how it forces you to be thankful for what you have. And although that is true, this year I noticed something different. Allow me to paint the scene for you.
The film was released in 1946. It’s in black & white and the main character is played by James Stewart. It’s about a small town, Bedford Falls, and a local businessman, George Bailey, who actually longs to leave. As a kid, he had dreams and ambition. He always looked past the present and into the future. His father Peter Bailey ran the local buildings & loans. Back then people used banks or building & loans to borrow money to purchase their homes. Peter was a compassionate caring man that looked past people’s earning potential and financial status to lend money so they could be homeowners. That was/is the American dream, home ownership.
Other than the bank, the Bailey’s were the only other establishment that would fund a loan, well there’s Mr. Potter. He was the town’s most powerful and wealthiest man. Mr. Potter didn’t have compassion, empathy and or sympathy. All he cared about was money and power. The only thing standing in Mr. Potter’s way of a bonafide monopoly was the Bailey’s buildings & loans.
George wanted to see the world, go to college and become an architect. He wanted to construct tall buildings and new homes. His dreams were bigger than Bedford Falls. However life had different plans — and George’s father had a stroke and passed away. This caused George to have to postpone his trip. While settling his father’s affairs, the board of trustees needed George to sign over his controlling interest in the B&L. Potter made it clear he was going take over the B&L. George knew he could not let Potter have the B&L, because his father worked too hard to keep it away from him. Peter Bailey understood what kind of man Potter was. George knew too, and he could not allow it, so as for college … dream deferred.
The years passed and George found himself stuck in Bedford Falls. George got
married, and bought a house and had a family. It’s difficult to pursue your dreams when you have dependents. As he got older, the weight of knowing that he was never going to live out his dreams, made him cranky and resentful.
The final straw came when George’s uncle lost the B&L deposits totaling $8,000.00(remember 1940’s) which caused George to have to go and beg Potter for the money. Potter, like a shark that smelled blood, wanted collateral but all George had was a life insurance policy worth $500. Potter pointed out that George was better off dead. All that frustration and pressure building on George’s shoulders, he went out and got drunk, then decided to end it all.
Now for as much as I’ve told you, I’ve left out a bunch of stuff because for one, you should watch it and, two, I don’t want to spoil it if you’ve never seen it.
Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” this time I realized how timeless and current it is. Other than the clothing and technology, it really is very similar to today.
- Sacrificing dreams for work? Check
- Recovering from a war? Check
- Hard times and job loss? Check
- People losing their homes? Check
- Corporate Greed? Check
- Depression? Check
- Suicide and violence? Check
- Insensitive jerks that need to shut their cake holes? Double Check!!
George turns things around. It wouldn’t be a great Christmas movie if he didn’t. However, many people don’t get that chance. Many people have not survived this
recession. Suicide rates increase during the holiday season because people feel
like failures if they can’t provide for those that depend on them. Loneliness, unemployment, foreclosure can lead to a very sad time for many.
If you’re working, be thankful. If you have a spouse and children hold them tight. If you’re feeling lonely talk to someone about it but just remember, it’ll get better and you can have a wonderful life
This post was written by Chris Fields, MLHR, HR professional, consultant, social media guru and blogger. Read more of Chris’s writings at CostofWork. And connect with him on twitter (@new_resource) and Linked In