There are some people that really think that there is something wrong with them. For some people, there’s a lot of significance in knowing that there’s something wrong with them. Especially when they think that there is more wrong with them than with anyone else in the world. And self-pity often makes them feel good because it does connect them to themselves.
But it usually does not give them what they are craving.
Some people can get rather emotional about this. Thinking that their life is worthless and they might as well be dead. Thinking that nothing ever works for them, that they’ve tried everything and nothing has worked out the way they wanted.
Do you recognise that feeling?
Then I would like to tell you the story about a man who thought that his life was worthless.
One of the reasons that he didn’t appreciate his life is that he had never realised that it actually was a wonderful and rich life.
You might know the story already; it is from a Christmas movie called “It’s a Wonderful Life” which was made in 1946 with James Stewart as the main character. If you have not seen this movie, I can recommend it most definitely. Bring some tissues, it is a real tear-jerker. Even if you know how it ends.
You see, his whole life this man always wanted to be somewhere he wasn’t, instead of appreciating where he was. He always wanted to do things he couldn’t, because of where he was.
I think his name was George.
Yes, George Bailey.
So George Bailey hated where he lived because the place he lived was insignificant. It was just a small cracker little town.
He dreamed his whole life that someday he would get out of that town where his family and friends all lived, to leave this insignificant place.
Nothing ever happened there.
It was just an insignificant place.
He knew his life would be worthless until he got out of that place.
Now George Bailey dreamed of going to college and then travelling the world because that would be significant for him.
Leaving that town is what he talked about his whole life.
George was a good guy; as a little boy, he worked for the local pharmacist who was an alcoholic. One day the pharmacist got some very bad news and became very drunk, and by accident he put poison in someone’s pills. George noticed this and told him about it, but because the pharmacist was drunk, he beat George and slapped him to the ground. Then he realised what he had done and corrected the mistake.
George never told anyone, he just wanted to help.
Then George’s little brother fell through the ice one day and George dove in and saved his little brother’s life. And he lost the hearing in one of his ears because of a bad cold he got because of that.
He was a good kid.
But he was never good enough…to himself.
George’s father was a good man, too, he wanted George to do whatever he wanted to do. He didn’t want George to leave, but he wasn’t about to hold him back; he knew, in the end, nobody can really stop you. You can only hold yourself back by thinking that you have to go somewhere else to get what it is you need. But he figured he’d let George find out for himself, rather than trying to tell him.
He knew that this approach might be painful, but sometimes the painful lesson is the one you will never forget.
See, George was always longing for places that he thought would be better and bigger than right where he was.
George was a likeable guy, always doing the right thing, but he often felt this emptiness inside. He feared that he was missing out, so he was always looking for the next thing.
He liked his life, but he was always thinking about doing something else. So George saved his money; he’d do anything to get out.
His mom was wondering: “Why is he leaving, this is where everyone loves him; we all think he’s significant, he is significant to us. Why would anyone want to leave the only place that has all the people that love him?”
But I guess that kind of significance wasn’t enough for George, even his mom’s love wasn’t enough to keep him there.
So finally, one day, George was ready to leave, he was going to travel to Europe before he went to college. He had saved plenty of money, he packed his big suitcase, he was going to do it, he was going to take off.
He was confident enough about leaving everything because he knew that his father was there.
And then his father died of a heart attack.
George’s father knew what was most important in life, which was love and connection, not being significant. George’s father knew that living in the town was a very significant thing. He knew that the most significant things in that town were the people he called his friends and his family.
And serving and loving them was the most important thing for him and that gave him joy. He prided himself on finding ways to be a giver.
He owned a small bank called the Building & Loan Association.It wasn’t that successful, but it was important to George’s father.
Mr. Bailey believed that if you could help people out just a little here and there, well that was the lord’s work, to help people out a little. There was nothing more important than that, nothing more rewarding than that.
And then he died.
And the man that was going to take over the Building & Loan Association was a man by the name of Potter.
This was a significance-driven man, if you have seen the movie you will remember him.
He was a heartless man, all he cared about was himself. An egocentric man.
Everyone starts with a good heart, but Mr. Potter was hurt a long time ago. He then decided that the best way to deal with things was to just focus on your own business. To Mr. Potter it wasn’t practical to loan money to people to build a house. If you’re going to build it anyway, you might as well charge them rent.
And now he was going take over the Building & Loan Association.
And while George was preparing to leave, George’s uncle Billy told him that Mr. Potter was going to take over and dissolve the Building & Loan Association so that Mr. Potter would have the only bank in town. He would then control almost everything.
So George went back and he heard Potter talking about his father, saying that his father was a fool. That he gave money to people that he shouldn’t have, that he shouldn’t have been such a giver.
George said: “My father cared about this town, my father did good things, and you’re not going to do this.”
Then Potter replied: “What are you going to do about it, George, there’s nobody else to run it.”
And then George said: “I’ll stay here.”
So George sacrificed his dream; he thought he would only do it for a few years, so he gave his college money to his brother.
He thought this was only going to take a couple of years until his brother got out of college. Then he would take his turn and go to college.
But when his brother finally came home from college, he had gotten married and had a good job offer with his father-in-law’s company. George saw the great opportunity for his little brother and did not want to stand in his way, so his brother moved to Iowa.
And, again, George stayed where he was.
Again he’s stuck in this little insignificant town…and then he falls in love with Mary when she comes back from college and they get married.
So now they are about to go off on their honeymoon. At least he’s going to get to go on his honeymoon, he’s got his money and he’s got his girl, he’s excited as he can be.
And while they are driving to the station, he finds out that the stock market crashed. And that people want to take their money out of the Building & Loan Association. He then tries to talk people out of that by pleading not to take all the money out. He convinces them to only take a small amount so he can keep the doors open until closing time. And he uses all the money for his honeymoon for that.
So, again, he gives up all the things he wants, just to help the people out.
And he stays in that town, buys an old house and works at the Building & Loan Association and becomes a great man in that town.
He and his wife help many people build their own homes and they build incredible lives. He really cares for the people in this little insignificant town and he is loved in return by many of them.
So he actually started to enjoy himself and you’d think that if everything goes like this you’d finally get a break, wouldn’t you?
But then one Christmas day, his uncle Billy gets a little confused and he misplaces the money that he was going to deposit in the bank. He accidentally puts that money in Mr. Potter’s newspaper who unknowingly picks it up. And when Mr. Potter finds out, he does not tell anyone, nor give the money back.
Uncle Billy took all the money from the safe and now it is missing. They are also having a bank examiner visiting right on that day and this now seems very suspicious. It looks like someone has to go to jail, and it’s going to be George because he doesn’t want his uncle to go to jail, so he’s going to take the blame.
And George then goes home and realises that all those years and all the sacrifice and all that he’s given, it now feels like it was all for nothing.
He has been giving and sacrificing and then something like this happens, and it does not seem fair to him. He goes home and screams at his kids and shouts at his wife and he is desperate. He runs out of the house, ashamed of his conduct and even goes to Potter to beg for help, but Potter reports him to the police.
George sees everything fall apart, everything that he believed in. He knows that he could lose it all. And when he realises that because of his life insurance, he is worth more dead than alive, it is enough for him to think about committing suicide.
So he drives out of town like a madman until he crashes his car against a tree. If you have seen the movie you will remember that it was a bitter cold and snowy night. He then leaves his car at the crash site and walks out on that bridge. He walks out there and he is going to kill himself. He is going to throw himself into that ice-cold water. Just because he thinks that his life is worthless and has no meaning.
And then, just as he’s about to jump, there is some other force in the Universe that actually really cares about him.
And God sends a second-class angel, one that doesn’t look much like an angel, God could have picked a better one. A second-class angel is an angel that has not earned his wings yet.
And God said to this angel: “Clarence, go down there and take care of George. Teach him a lesson that he needs to get into his unconscious mind rather than his conscious mind. Make it so that he’ll never forget the wonderful and rich life that he lived, so that this primary fear disappears.”
Because George doesn’t understand, George thinks his life is worthless, George thinks he is worthless. George thinks that he did something wrong and that he is unloved.
George thinks the only way out is to actually commit suicide because he thinks his life is pretty bad. And so, right before George jumps in, this wingless angel has to do something. He doesn’t know what, but he’ll do anything.
God told Clarence to watch over this guy, who thinks he is beyond help and so desperate that he wants to jump off the bridge. So Clarence jumps into that cold water first. George freaks out and he jumps in to save him because the angel knew George’s nature.
He knew what really drove George.
Clarence knew that George was a much better man than he gave himself credit for.
And afterwards, George said: “What the hell are you doing, are you trying to kill yourself?” And Clarence, the angel, replied: “No George, I came to save you. Why are you trying to kill yourself?”
George then says: “My life’s worthless. I wish I’d never been born, I truly wish I’d never been born.”
And the angel said: “Wish granted.”
He made it so that George had never been born.
But he didn’t make it so that George just disappeared.
No, he just was going to show George what life would have been like if he hadn’t been there.
But George did not think that this guy was an angel.
He thought that this was just a metaphor.
That this was just some crazy guy.
He didn’t think that there was a God at that point.
He didn’t know that he had been chosen.
He didn’t know that his life was truly guided.
He didn’t think that his life mattered anyhow.
He didn’t think he was worth enough.
He thought he had to earn it all.
He thought he had failed the test of life because he had not succeeded to be significant.
And so the angel took him on a walk on the streets of that little town.
And when Clarence took him through that little town, it didn’t look anything like the town George knew. The town looked dark and the people were mean and rough. Even the name was different, it was now called Potterville.
They went to a place that was normally his old hang-out. There was a big fight going on there, and George met one of his old friends. This friend, who was his best buddy, who he had influenced so much during his life, was now a criminal who had just broken out of jail. And he did not know who George was.
George couldn’t believe it, he thought it must have been someone else, this couldn’t be his friend.
He went back to see the pharmacist but he was not there anymore. He had poisoned that patient because George wasn’t there to stop him, and the pharmacist committed suicide in his grief.
And his little brother wasn’t alive, he died when he fell in the ice because George wasn’t there to get him out.
An old woman he befriended, who had then become the centre of joy for the community, was now institutionalized and alone. Because George wasn’t there and no one else cared.
His wife Mary, was a scared and lonely spinster, working at the library because there was no George in her life.
And every place they went, George found enormous pain, he never realised how all the little things he did had changed things in a big way for people.
When George began to understand how much his life had really mattered, how much of a difference he had made, he started to miss the people around him.
He had forgotten to be grateful for the little gifts in life.
He began to realise that the greatest gifts are your friends, your family, your loved ones. Everything you want, all the love, all the significance you want, can be found right here. If you just care for them, if you just give enough to them, they’ll give it right back.
So George sat down and began to pray.
He prayed for the angel to come back.
He put himself in a state of deep gratitude.
He begged God to give him back the life he once hated. Because he now appreciated the little things. They are everything. A smile, a hug, a kind word at the right time.
And God heard his prayer and answered right away and gave him his life back, just the way it was.
And George went back to face the music. He went home to face his problems. He thought: “f*** it, I’m just going to have a good time, because problems and being happy have nothing to do with each other. I’m going to be happier because I’ve just decided to be happy.”
And he raced into the house and kissed his kids and his wife was not there. But the bank examiner and the DA officer with an arrest warrant were waiting for him. Then his wife came back in.
Then suddenly all of their friends and family and others came and brought some money. And George finally realised how much he meant, how significant he was to the people in this little town, and how much loved he was.
And Clarence went back to tell God that it all worked out well.
Of course, She already knew and Clarence got his wings.
Now, why did I tell you this wonderful tale? Maybe you have already guessed it. It shows you that your life might be a lot more significant than you give yourself credit for, that the love and care you give really does make a difference.
I want you to think about all the people you have met in your life and imagine in what way you might have made a difference in their life.
We often have no idea.
Then think about the people that have made a difference in your life. Sometimes just by a remark they made, a little help they offered. Something small that made a big difference for you.
I hope you now understand how important your life is.
Because you were born, just because you live, you truly matter and make a difference.
Often we think that we only matter when we do big things, but I tell you that it is the little things that matter the most. A word, a smile, a gesture, a hug, some attention, a little love and caring goes a long way.
“Amazing isn’t it? How one person’s life can affect the lives of so many others.”
“Remember no man is a failure who has friends” – Clarence the Angel.
I hope you like the story and that you will learn the same lesson as George Bailey did. You matter. You are important. Your life is important. Find out how you can make more of those little differences to more people. It might change somebody’s life in a much bigger way than you could ever imagine. Go and love, both yourself and thy neighbour.
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