One of my favorite things about the Christmahanukwanzaa season is the return of the traditional holiday TV shows. Charlie Brown, Rudolph and Frosty - even Burgermeister Meisterburger and Heat Miser - all hold a special place in my heart.
But for me, no seasonal movie holds a candle to Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. For those of you who've never seen it, see it. I won't do a complete synopsis here, but IMDB does a pretty decent job of summing it up.
It's not only my favorite holiday film, it's one of my favorite films of all time.
Because it deals with something we can all relate to - our self-importance in relation to the world around us. Each of us from time to time have had moments of crisis and, much like George Bailey, we've contemplated how much better off those around us would be had we never existed. Emotionally, it's a pretty selfish view to take, but troubled times can loom large and force us to rationalize situations in pretty desperate ways.
But George is a truly compassionate soul, not because he wants to be, but because in the situations he finds himself in, it's just the right thing to do. Time and time again, he gives up his dreams of traveling and seeing the world to make things right for those around him. When he and Mary are leaving for their honeymoon and he sees the swarm of people outside the savings & loan, he makes the compassionate decision to use the money for his honeymoon trip to save his customers and bail out the savings & loan - even if there's only two dollars left at the end of the day. George could've kept on going toward his honeymoon and happiness, but his customers - the people of his town - needed him.
It's when things go horribly bad for George that the story really hits home. After jumping off a bridge, he meets Clarence, an angel who shows him exactly what life would've been like if he'd never been born. It seems like a stretch at first, that George's mere existence could've saved the town from the monopolizing influence of Mr. Potter. But is it really a stretch?
We all touch the lives of others and our words and deeds have a butterfly effect that ripples through the lives we touch, as those people interact with others and so on. We're all important to each other and, as any Buddhist will tell you, we all share this life with each other.
In the end, those close to George come to his rescue. His good karma pays off and everything comes around for the best.
So, during the holidays - whichever holiday you celebrate - take a look at those around you. Even those whose lives you don't think you touch. See a little bit of yourself in their eyes. Take their hand. Connect. Share. Enjoy this wonderful life.