This is my own "entry" into our latest song contest, which runs through Wednesday.
Ever since I was a kid, I have enjoyed old TV shows and old movies. Not all of them, mind you, just the good ones. I have books in my home right now about the Three Stooges, Our Gang ("Little Rascals"), and the Twilight Zone. Do I look at them often? No. Do I plan to get rid of them anytime soon? Also no.
For those of you who know me, it may come as no surprise that my favorite movie of all time is "It's a Wonderful Life". I try to watch it every Christmas, but sometimes I don't get a chance to see the whole thing. It is funny to me that my favorite movie didn't come out during my lifetime. In fact, this film was released the year that my mother was born.
If by some chance you have never seen this movie, you are missing out on a significant cultural touchstone, as well as the valuable life lessons contained therein. I have enjoyed this movie since I was a teenager, but it means much more to me as a man, and as a husband and father of three.
George Bailey represents the hardworking average Joe (something that Jimmy Stewart excelled at portraying during his acting career). Due to some hard financial times and other factors beyond his control, he is at the end of his rope and he doesn't want to live anymore.
God sends a clumsy angel named Clarence to show George what the world would be like if George had never lived. The ripple effect of his life is much larger than he ever considered - saving his war hero younger brother from drowning when they were kids, keeping the old pharmacist from poisoning someone and losing his business, rescuing his wife from a lonely existence.
This is true for all of us. All of our lives have a God-given purpose. There is a reason that you are here.
I read a book recently that reminded me of this as well, and how this is something that every living person longs for. Erwin McManus, in his book "Soul Cravings", discusses a suicidal girl who was sidetracked from killing herself and decided to live another day. So what could have deterred her? She was stopped by a co-worker in the hall who asked where the Coke machine was. That was enough to give her a sense of purpose.
The final six minutes of "It's a Wonderful Life" shows George back on the bridge where he wanted to die when the film opens. This time, he wants to LIVE. He prays, and his prayer is answered.
After returning home, he is greeted with bill collectors, but more importantly, he is greeted by his loving family. His unbridled joy is a pleasure to witness.
There is a huge outpouring of support from the community in order to help this man who has helped so many others. Watching it today, it had a new meaning to me yet again, as I was reminded of the people in this community who send cards, money, emails, and prayers for my friend David who recently passed away. I don't think I shared this before, but we raised roughly $5000 through the fundraising efforts here. THAT is amazing to me.
I think most people want to feel like George Bailey, knowing that they have some sort of impact on the lives of friends, family, and even strangers that they come in contact with each day.
When George's friends and family gather around him, they sing, "Hark! The Herard Angels Sing!" and "Auld Lang Syne". I usually think of this scene anytime I hear those particular songs. I have NEVER watched this scene without crying, and today was no exception. This scene is rife with emotion - the love of a man for his family, the love of friends, the relief of a big problem solved, the generosity of a community for one man in need, and don't forget it's Christmastime, too.
The message from Clarence the angel in the book they find has always stuck with me, and I hope that it always will:
Remember no man is a failure who has friends.