My husband’s favorite movie is Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Our family makes a homemade Advent calendar each year and one of the pages always includes watching this film as a family activity. As a side note, I (randomly) suggested watching it the other day and all three of my kids who happen to be in the room shouted in unison as though I were a disgruntled shipman threatening mutiny! “Moooom!” they cried. “It’s not the day on the calendar for that yet! You can’t watch it ahead of time. IT’S TRADITION to watch it when the Advent calendar says to watch it!” This moment contained several life lessons for me, one of which is that, we parents should never underestimate the joy and comfort family traditions bring to our children’s lives.
Speaking of life lessons and getting back to the main purpose of this post, Capra’s iconic film is a veritable treasure trove. Viewers navigate the fictional journey of George Bailey, his family and community. There are numerous take-aways that can serve as learning moments to those who are paying close attention. In fact, author Bob Welch wrote an entire book on the topic. If you’ve never seen the movie, I place a spoiler alert on the rest of this post.
Life lessons we should already know but often forget
A fact to which I am sure most people reading this can attest is that, life can be tough. Really, really tough. Every person’s journey is unique, and at any given moment, someone somewhere may be going through a very rough time. Sadly, many people give into despair and take their own lives. While George Bailey is a fictional character, it can definitely be stated that Capra’s creation accurately depicts many people’s reality. One of the life lessons this wonderful movie imparts (See what I did there? ::winks::) is that life has purpose.
As a Christian, I believe that God has known each of us before He formed us in our mothers’ wombs and that He created each of us with a purpose in mind. (Jeremiah 1:5) In Capra’s film, we meet the quirky, whimsical, jolly, sweet, courageous angel, Clarence. He learns that George Bailey is going to consider taking his own life at exactly 10:45 p.m. on a particular day. Thus begins his mission on earth, to convince George that his life has purpose and that life is always a blessing.
We really should forget about those Joneses
In one scene of Capra’s life lessons film, George Bailey’s son mentions that the neighbors have gotten a new car. His father flies off the handle, demanding to know why the child is not satisfied with his own family’s car. George’s slow, painful, mental, emotional and spiritual decline is clearly evident. The child, of course, never meant to insinuate that he was not grateful for his family’s blessings. However, George’s own personal discontent perceives it that way.
It’s easy to forget to be grateful when things feel like they’re falling apart around us. Appliances malfunction, cars break down, unexpected medical bills arise, etc., and the strain starts to weigh us down. I know my mother isn’t the only parent to teach her children to be thankful for what they have and to make do with what they’ve got. If we can’t upgrade or get the latest greatest gadget on the market, it’s okay. If our neighbor always seems to have the latest-greatest, that’s okay, too.
It’s always the right time to do the right thing
I got that subheading from a quote I recently read. I love it. It truly is always the right time to do the right thing. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy. In fact, there are many times in life that doing the right thing involves a tremendous amount of personal sacrifice or suffering. The life lessons in Capra’s film include a fact of life that has to do with bad guys. They don’t always get caught and they don’t always get punished. The point is this: That should never keep us (good guys) from doing what is right or from helping others.
The fictional character of the old, cranky miser, Mr. Potter, reminds us that greed and power are often a deadly combination. Making such issues a priority in life typically results in havoc. Yet, George Bailey winds up bearing no ill-will toward the man who tries to ruin him. In fact, he wishes him a merry Christmas. There are several scenes in the movie where we can see the wheels turning in Potter’s mind. George Bailey’s integrity, honesty and good heart baffle him. In real life, if even one bad guy has a conversion of heart because of an example a good guy sets, it’s worth it.
Life lessons are important
In this fast-paced, chaotically busy, self-absorbed society, teaching humble life lessons to our children might be easily overlooked. It’s the perfect time of year to be mindful of such things. Life is worth living. The lessons you impart to your children help shape the future. What will you teach them? I think we can all agree that we want the world to have more George Baileys and less Mr. Potters.
What life lessons do you think are most important for children being raised in the 21st century? Share your thoughts with our Hot Mess Press community by leaving a comment! What other movies do you recommend for teaching life lessons?