A Wonderful Life


“…Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

As a song over the radio in the bookstore plays, I sit and write. I’m sitting by a window and see the sun beam through a light morning haze, lighting up the university quad just outside. Large oaks loom over the few individuals walking in the brisk fall weather. I see a friend, in a blue plaid jacket and signature fedora, strolling in the distance, twirling his wooden walking staff, his breath condensing in the cool air.

A country song is playing now—a “bro-country” Luke Bryan song. Then another one, one that seems more heartfelt.

My thoughts wander. To the movie I watched Saturday night—It’s a Wonderful Life. To how touching I find the film—despite its age—more and more each time I see it. It is the story of George Bailey, a smart, hard-working, compassionate person who dreams of escaping his hometown of Bedford Falls and traveling the world–of living an extraordinary life. As family and business crises arise, however, George sacrifices his many dreams, one by one, to create a better life for his family and community. There’s a sadness here, yet also a beauty in George’s courage to make these sacrifices. Never being able to escape Bedford Falls–George might have identified with Belle’s song in Beauty and the Beast, “I want much more than this provincial life.”

Not only this, but the frustration, desperation, anger, and depression that George Bailey feels as his life falls apart, as he vents his frustration on his family and then realizes what he has done and begs their forgiveness. These scenes tap into some basic fears—fear of hurting others, fear of an “ordinary” life, fear of never being able to fulfill one’s dreams. George Bailey dreamed of leaving his hometown and going to a university, of traveling the world and designing high-rise buildings.

He gave up these dreams, and that’s the bitter in the bittersweetness of this film; the sweetness is George’s loving family and loyal friends. Call me a hopeless romantic (it’s true) and sentimental, but there’s a truth I find in It’s a Wonderful Life about the definition of a successful life that I need to hear more often.

Back in the bookstore, the radio is playing a barbecue advertisement. The sun is a bit higher, the mist has disappeared, and it’s almost time to go to class. It’s just another ordinary day in my life.