Jimmy Stewart was a True American War Hero in WWII. Stewart’s draft number came up in 1941 just as his Hollywood star began to really shine. He reported for duty, but at 6’3” and only 138 pounds, he was five pounds underweight. Think about that for a minute…almost a million men a year were being drafted at the time to fight in a World War. There’s a chance you might not come home. If you’re Jimmy Stewart, you’re on top of the world as an American actor.
You proudly go down to join up but are told you’re too skinny…you’ve got a 4F classification and a legitimate excuse to “sit this one out” and go back to making millions and having women adore you. But you don’t…just like George Baily, the character he played in “It’s A Wonderful Life”, James Stewart knows deep inside what he must do. He goes home…eats everything he can find for a couple of days, and goes back 5 and 1/4 pounds heavier and enlists in the Army Air Corps as a private. He becomes the first Hollywood actor to join up before or during WWII. He flew 20 combat missions, most of them in dangerous areas over Europe.
. When he got out of the service he had reached the rank of Colonel. He went on to serve in The Air Force Reserves for years, eventually becoming a Brigadier General. He received many medals including The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. When he got out of the service, his old friend, director Frank Capra told him he had a part for him in a new film that would change his career and his life. It was origibally called “The Greatest Gift”. You and I know it as “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But it has the power to be The Greatest Gift to you and me.
If you are an aging Baby Boomer like me, you’ve probably seen this film at least 30 times. It’s on TV every Christmas. If not…if you are a bit younger and never seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it. I know young people have an aversion to movies in black & white (this baffles me) but it’s worth your time. For in “It’s A Wonderful Life” you’ll find a guide to everything you need to know about living a purpose-filled life. If you are religious, your faith will be strengthened…if you’re not, but used to be…your faith will be renewed. If you are agnostic, you’ll find it spiritual. Regardless of your creed, you will find something to learn about yourself and how to deal with this thing called Life. For example:
- Life is HARD. George is faced with raising kids, being a husband, running his own small business while constantly being professionally attacked by his enemy (Mr Potter).
- Sometimes, the dream you have of how you want your life to turn out, doesn’t come true, but you are entitle to more than ONE dream. (George is constantly getting pushed and pulled back from his dream to see the world, and create great things).
- Your biggest “asset” in this life is your FAMILY. George kept his word to his father, and kept the Baily Building & Loan alive, and refuses to turn in Uncle Billy for losing $8,000, despite the fact that it means prison and ruin for George himself.
- It’s perfectly normal to get frustrated with life and take it out on the people you love most. It’s wrong of course but it happens. Witness George’s anger and frustration with his wife and kids when he’s faced with the pending doom coming his way after his business is showing a unexplained loss.
- Everyone deserves a second chance…even those we know who have made mistakes. George gives Violet some cash out of own his pocket to help her make her way to NY, despite the fact that most people in town think she’s a bit of a whore.
- Angels are real and they walk among us. I’m sure there’s been a time in your life when some stranger was at “the right place at the right time” and saved you a bad-turn.
- Sometimes the “greatest job offer in the world” isn’t the best thing to take right now. (Potter’s offer to have George come work for him, IF George will let him destroy the building & loan.)
- You should never look to hard to find love…sometimes it’s right in front of you. (Mary having a crush on George since they were kids.)
- Just when you think you’re at the end…that there’s no way out…the people who love you will come to your rescue…IF you share your troubles. (The townspeople coming to George’s financial aid)
- If you have just ONE person in your life who truly loves you…and has your back, you are truly blessed. (Mary, George’s wife)
- Some of the people with all the money and power are actually evil.(Mr. Potter keeping the poor down and in perpetual misery.)
- Having money and being “rich” are two different things.“To my big brother George…the richest man in town,”-Harry Bailey
- You’ll never know how your friends might turn out, if you hadn’t been there to keep them cool. (George going to his favorite resturant only to find it turned into a nasty dive-bar.
- We have to have faith in one another, and we’ll all be OK. (George explaining to customers at the Building and Loan (a credit union) that their money was in actually each other’s homes, not in a vault.
- Make a hard-working teacher cry, and her husband WILL punch you in the mouth.
- No man will ever have trouble finding a girl if he’ll just lean to dance.
- No matter where you live…no matter what shape it’s in…even if your house is falling apart…it is your HOME.
- You never really know the affect you have had on other people’s live and you NEVER will.
- And finally…All the BEST for Christmas…and I sincerely hope you have A Wonderful Life.-Jim