Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Every Time A Bell Rings...

I wrote this a year or two ago, but I'm posting it again. It's still so apropos, and there's really nothing I could add to it.

Tonight I watched one of the best Christmas movies of all time. While I was growing up, my mother always watched "It's A Wonderful Life" while she wrapped presents. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs on Christmas Eve, sometimes even at two in the morning, resting my head against the stairwell, my bare toes wrapped around the wooden stair; listening to the unrolling of the wrapping paper, the "shk shk, shhhhhk" of the scissors- my mother could glide through wrapping paper with scissors like a hot knife through butter: not a single jagged edge, straight lines all the way- hearing the clean "pop" that Scotch tape makes as its torn (incidentally, I absolutely love the smell of Scotch tape- it smells more like Christmas to me than anything else), and listening to George Bailey sing "Buffalo Girls", or Sam Wainwright screech "HEE HAW!"

And so of course, it does behoove me to carry on the tradition. Because after all, what better thing can you do while wrapping Christmas presents?

I have probably seen "It's a Wonderful Life" no less than fifteen times, and it still has yet to grow old. Every single time Mr. Gower boxes young George's ear, I kid you not, I bawl. Every single time. Tonight was no different. I sat there huddled up against my couch with tears streaming down my cheeks, listening to poor George crying out, seeing Mr. Gower's anguish- oh Lord, it's so sad!

I never fail to identify with the life George was dealt: the frustration, the claustrophobia of watching all your friends going on to do great things- all the things he should have done- and being held back by circumstances or choices that were made for him. I love how he makes the best of the life he got, loving his wife, his kids, his family and his town to the best of his ability. Making a difference every day in the little small things that he never even knew he did. I wince every time at the desperation in his eyes, the cruelty of Mr. Potter as he barks, "You're worth more dead than alive!"

And I laugh with joy every time he runs through the streets of Bedford Falls shouting, "Merry Christmas, Movie House! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas you wonderful old Building and Loan!" And I cry again as the town's people rush into his house- his beautiful, drafty old house- offering him money that they most likely couldn't spare, pouring back into his lap all the love, and goodness, and generosity he had shown them over the years. Mr. Gower, "calling in charges", Annie giving up her divorce money, and the bank examiner giving into the Christmas spirit.

Its funny to think how our lives intersect and touch so many others. One thing I do could effect so many people I've never met and never will meet. We are all like pebbles thrown in a pond, our ripples connecting, passing through, maybe even disturbing the ripples of those around us, and never even knowing that the pebbles thrown in with us have their own story, their own history, and their own effect on others. But what if my pebble had never been thrown? What if I had never touched one person, never caused one tiny ripple in the pond? Clarence was right when he told George he had been given a great gift- The gift of being able to see what the world would have been like without him.

I think that's what "It's a Wonderful Life" is really about. Showing us how much of a difference one tiny ripple can make in the world around us. Teaching us that the people we rub shoulders with, the people we smile at, frown at, laugh at and love are the ones that will ultimately change the life of someone around them- someone who adopts a child, preaches on the street, bags your groceries, or runs for president.

Who knows? Maybe my ripple will change the world.


  1. I love this - It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie and I often think about all the little acts of kindness that are done that affect other people. Thanks for writing about it.

  2. It's always seen in my house too - no matter what. I can say I've not ever seen it without crying, even if I tell myself you're NOT going to cry. Oh well, come next Christmas I'll again watch this movie with resolve not to cry, but tissues are always within reach. <3 Auntie