You may have watched this scene hundreds of times. Even if you’ve only seen it once, it sticks with you.
George Bailey, played by James Stewart in Frank Capra’s 1946 Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, realizes he’s lost it all: $8,000 has erroneously gotten into Old Man Potter’s hands putting Bailey Brother’s Building and Loan on the line. George heads home to find his cheerful family preparing for a Christmas party, but George is not in the mood. He gets angry with his wife and children. His daughter, Janie, playing the piano keeps missing a note.
George snaps at her: “Now, go on and play,” he says.
She turns to him and says, “Oh, Daddy,” then bursts into tears.
It’s that precise exchange that gets me: George at his wit’s end, and Janie, so innocent and sweet doing only what she knows—responding to her father in a state she rarely, if ever, sees him. George later goes out to get drunk, then subsequently contemplates suicide until his guardian angel Clarence arrives.
We know from the film what caused George’s despair, but do we ever know what’s going on in another person’s mind, especially our loved ones? I recently found out from a friend that the husband of one of our mutual friends had committed suicide. My friend that shared the news couldn’t fathom why a man would do that to his wife or his family. My friend, in fact, berated the deceased. I agreed it was awful, but I could also empathize with the departed. Did anyone notice his state of mind? When was it too late? Who knows how many of us are out there in dire need of our guardian angel?
At this time of year, let’s do our best to check in with our brothers, and also ourselves. We spend so much time caring for and supporting others, yet do we check in on ourselves? We owe it to each other to remind one another that we indeed have wonderful lives and that we should do everything we can to keep them intact. Let’s be for each other what Clarence is for George. Let’s earn our wings.