Over the Christmas break, I surprised my youngest son Brolin by taking him to see the classic movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” on the big screen. The movie is about a man named George Bailey who plans to take his life so he can leave his family a life-insurance payout. The movie resonates because of its strong themes of family and faith, and the impact that just one man can have on his whole community. As we left the theater, I was taken with how well the film played on the big screen. My son loved it and wanted to talk as we drove home.
Watching on the big screen, I saw something I’d never seen before. At one point, George is granted a glimpse of what his home town would be like if he had never been born. The town was no longer called Bedford Falls but Potterville, named after the ruthless businessman who gained control of most of the town. In the past, I had thought the film’s main message was George Bailey’s passion to fight the evils of capitalism, as he worked to provide the ordinary working person the dignity of owning their own home.
While driving home, another theme occurred to me. Without George’s selfless passion and hard work, the entire community would have been consumed by a Darwinian attitude of survival of the fittest, creating a place where people no longer took care of each other or even knew each other, a place of faceless strangers, desperate and violent. This film reminded me why so many of our cities have become impoverished, not only financially, but also morally and spiritually. When we stop caring for one another, when we no longer see each other as valuable, the value we place on our own lives also diminishes. The tragic outcome for North America is that, sadly, suicide has become the second leading cause of death among teens.
As we pulled into our garage, Brolin took the message a step further. He noted how George Bailey and his wife Mary had practiced courtship and chastity and cherished their four kids. Although a life crisis had brought George Bailey to a desperate place, a place where he considered suicide, and although family pressures could have caused Mary to consider the need for an abortion, abortion and suicide never became real options. Their reverence for life and the strong support of their community carried them through, even when things got tough.
I’m so glad we saw “It’s A Wonderful Life” on the big screen. It’s no wonder that this life parable continues to touch lives 70 years after its first release. As Writer and Director of “Because of Grácia”, I can only imagine the joy of seeing families embrace its themes 70 years from now, being inspired to live out their faith in a world that desperately needs people like George and Mary Bailey, like Grácia and Chase.