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Amazing Possibilities!

  • Writer's pictureMatthew Kelly

Movie Night

“He’s got the IQ of a rabbit.”

“Yes, but he’s got the faith of a child—simple.”

This is part of the conversation that takes place between the angels at the beginning of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life talking about George Bailey.

Have you ever been praised for having the faith of a child? Have you ever aspired to have the faith of a child?

Welcome back to Best Christmas Ever. We are exploring 28 ways to make this an amazing Christmas for you, your family and friends, and the strangers God brings into your life this year.

#26 is… Movie night.

Have a movie night. Watch it alone or include everyone and anyone you wish. But pick a movie this year and commit to watching the same movie every Christmas for the rest of your life.

It is what is unchanging that allows you to make sense of the change. Fixed points of reference like the North Star allow us to navigate through life. And something as simple as a Christmas movie can help us assess our lives and provide clarity about what matters most and what matters least.

My favorite Christmas movie, like millions of other people, is It’s a Wonderful Life. We could have spent these 28 days just exploring the lessons from this extraordinary film. We could spend 100 days exploring the lessons from this movie. Here are 21 lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life.

1. George is the underdog. Mr. Potter is the top dog. We’re all underdogs and top dogs in different ways and at different times in our lives. How we deal with each of those scenarios determines the character of a person.

2. George loved people. he was the living embodiment of a man of the people and a man for the people.

3. We are all having an impact. George had no idea how much good he was doing. The angel Clarence said, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” We all forget our influence from time to time. In fact, most of us forget our influence most of the time it would seem to me.

4. George does at times feel sorry for himself. At one-point things get so bad that he says, “I wish I’d never been born.” Are you feeling sorry for yourself this Christmas?

5. Count your blessings. It is a simple, ancient path from discouragement and hopelessness to hope and the next step forward.

6. Poverty has a thousand faces, and we are all called to help the poor. But you cannot help the poor, whatever their poverty, from afar. We are each called to have a relationship with the poor. As Joseph the angel says, “If you’re going to help a man, you want to know something about him, don’t you?”

7. This is what the richest man in town had to say about the best man in town, “So, I suppose I should give [the money] to miserable failures like you and that idiot brother of yours to spend for me.” It is often the people who appear to be miserable failures and idiots who make the biggest impact in this world.

8. Your worldview affects the reality you experience. Do you remember the big, old house? “Oh, look at this wonderful old drafty house. Mary! Mary!” George Bailey says. Mary replies, “It’s full of romance, that old place. I’d like to live in it.” George was seeing the current state. Mary was envisioning the future state. George saw a house; Mary saw a home.

9. Prayers do get answered. Not always in the way you would like, but there is providence in that. As Garth Brooks notes, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

10. One of the clearest indicators of George Baileys character can be witnessed when his brother wins the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was happier that his brother won it than he would have been if he had won it himself. In a world that seems to be spiraling ever deeper into a pit of envy, let us never forget that the ability to delight in other people’s successes, accomplishments, good luck, and blessings is a rare trait that should be fostered every chance we get.

11. George is always helping other people. When we help others, there is always something in it for us, and that’s okay. It may be as simple as the warm feelings helping others fills our hearts with. Accept that, enjoy that, bask in that. The angel Clarence asks, “If I should accomplish this mission—I mean—might I perhaps win my wings?” He wanted to do good for others and he wanted good things for himself. And that’s okay. But helping others requires sacrifice, sometimes dream crushing sacrifice. George was all too familiar with the cost of helping others, but he often overlooked how helping others helped him, and was blind to how helping others had transformed him into a fine human being.

12. Life can be messy and difficult and disappointing. We hear the frustration of all this when George says, “Why did we have to live here in . . . this measly, crummy old town?”

13. Who is my neighbor? I think this may be the central question of the human experience. I’m not certain and I may see it differently in the future, but I have been pondering this for many years now, and what strikes me most is our desire to reduce the number of people we count as our neighbors. We have been doing it as human beings for thousands of years. This narrowing is an abdication of responsibility we have to our neighbor. It is never more starkly put than when the cranky, old, frustrated, unhappy, Mr. Potter says, “They’re not my children” of the children who will be affected by his foreclosures.

14. George’s dad was also a good man, a quiet achiever. Where are the quiet achievers in the social media addicted society? He is a man of perspective. He knows what matters most. He says to George, “You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental need. It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we’re helping him get those things in our “shabby little office.””

15. George was his father’s son. His father was a fine man, and he became a fine man. There is a cause-and-effect relationship here that our culture seems to have forgotten. There is no substitute for a father with character who cares.

16. Stick together. “We can get through this thing all right. We’ve got to stick together, though. We’ve got to have faith in each other,” is what George says as he is rallying the town to avoid disaster.

17. George was always looking for the best in people, not the good, the best.

18. We all have moments of desperation. George says to Clarence the angel, “Help me, Clarence. Get me back . . . Please, God, let me live again.” It would seem to me that we all need to learn how to live again, and that there is no better time of year to do that then at Christmas.

19. George wanted to live a remarkable live, an extraordinary life. He wanted to do something truly unequivocal. When he was confused about what mattered most, he thought his life was painfully ordinary. But the reality was his painfully ordinary life was extraordinary, remarkable, and unequivocal.

20. Sometimes the richest people have the least money.

21. Success often comes disguised as failure and the critics almost never know what they are talking about. In 1946 when It’s a Wonderful Life was released it failed at the box office, it was thrashed by reviewers, and it didn’t win any Academy Awards. “So mincing as to border on baby talk,” wrote the New Yorker. “For all its characteristic humors, Mr. Capra’s Wonderful Life . . . is a figment of simple Pollyanna platitudes,” wrote the New York Times. The company that produced it lost a fortune and went into liquidation. Both success and failure are illusions, and we should never let our critics direct our lives.

“He’s got the IQ of a rabbit.”

“Yes, but he’s got the faith of a child—simple.”

This Christmas lets us all aspire to the simple faith of a child.

Matthew Kelly

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