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Commentary: Take Time to Reflect on Your Wonderful Life

Tradition! Tis the season of traditions this time of year and part of mine of course include screen time.  We of a certain age have to watch the claymation half hour specials of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and of course Santa Claus is Coming to Town. You know, Burgermeister- Meister-Burger. But a must see that I do always is:  It's A Wonderful Life.  It is a love story between George Bailey and the town he is a part of, and turns out the town is a part of him. Only at this moment the relationship is in crisis. In the opening scenes we learn through the community of voices concerned for him that on Christmas Eve 1945 George Bailey is at the end of his rope. All he ever wanted to do was leave his hometown and now at this moment, George feels he has failed everyone especially himself.  

Clarence, Angel 2nd class, is assigned to save George, and in return, Clarence will finally receive his angel wings. I love this because the relationship between the Divine and the human is going to be collaborative not one sided.  Clarence will be in relationship with George and that relationship will help George see the gift George is to his community. In return Clarence will receive recognition from his community and finally get his wings after 200 years. 

Through flashbacks we witness George's life. The first is from 1919, when 12-year-old George saves his younger brother Harry from drowning, losing the hearing in one ear in the process. And then at his after-school job, George prevents disaster after realizing that the druggist, Mr. Gower, has accidentally added poison to a prescription. 

Already, because one moment is as important as the next, George’s presence saves three lives: that of Harry, Mr. Gower’s client, and Mr. Gower.  

It is 1928, finally it seems George has chance to leave Bedford Falls, go on a world tour, and then enter college.  But that is not to happen. George's father, Peter, has had a stroke; Peter Bailey soon dies. The board of directors of the Building and Loan (the Bailey’s business) votes to stay open on the condition that George stays on to run it. George gives his college tuition to his younger brother, Harry, on the condition that Harry take over the Building and Loan when he graduates, another sacrifice George makes for that which is bigger than him. 

Harry returns from college married and with a job offer from his father-in-law. Although Harry is ready to honor his commitments to George and the Building and Loan, George learns that the job has excellent prospects and will not allow his brother to turn it down.

George marries Mary and never does leave Bedford Falls

On Christmas Eve morning 1945, it is discovered through some nefarious circumstances that $8,000 is missing from the Savings and Loan and when a bank examiner arrives to review the Building and Loan's records, George realizes that scandal and criminal charges will follow. George goes home and takes it out on his family and rethinks all of his life and life choices.

George says he wishes he had never been born. Clarence decides to grant his wish to show George an alternate timeline in which he never existed. In this alternate timeline:

Bedford Falls is named Pottersville. It is dark and corrupt. Mr. Gower, the druggist, has recently been released from prison for manslaughter because George was not there to stop him from putting poison in the pills. The Building and Loan has long since closed down, as George never took over after his father's passing.  George discovers Harry's grave since George was not alive to save Harry from drowning. When George seeks out Mary, who never married, and claims he is her husband, she screams for the police. George flees and the local policeman gives chase.

Now convinced that Clarence really is his guardian angel, George runs to the bridge and begs for his life back; the alternate timeline changes back to the original reality.

George, who spent his life looking for something bigger and better somewhere else, discovers that actually it is pretty good right where he is. How many of us find ourselves feeling antsy or wishing I could’ve, or I should’ve?

Friends, take a deep breath, dig in your feet in, ground yourself in the now, reflect on your life, just think of all the lives you have touched one moment to the next.  What you are looking for may not be out there but inside you. Take time in this harried season to receive love from your family and friends, and take a moment to relish in all that you are to them.

It’s your life. Yes, it is wonderful!

Reverend Dr. Monica Corsaro is a United Methodist clergy from Galesburg. 

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.  Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.