Last night our family watched It’s a Wonderful Life, as our we do every New Year’s Eve.
My favorite scene is near the end when George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) runs up the stairs to greet his kids and pauses to replace the top of the broken banister—symbolizing all his irritations, frustrations, and burdens. But now it serves as proof that he’s really alive in his own imperfect home and world, with the opportunity to act and to love and to be loved. He kisses it.
The scene just before this one shows George enthusiastically greeting the bank examiner: “Yes, I know I’m going to jail, isn’t it wonderful?” He had been granted a revelation and now perceived that his life had deep value and was worth living no matter what he might have to suffer.
It reminded me a line in Marilynn Robinson’s novel Gilead. The main character knows he will soon die. This awareness works like a steroid on his capacity to savor life itself, even with its dryness and difficulties. In the journal he is writing for his young son, he says, “There have been so many fine days this summer that I begin to hear talk of a drought. Dust and grasshoppers are fine in their way, too, within limits. Whatever is coming, I’d be sorry to miss it.”
That quote puts life into perspective for me.
It’s true—life itself is such a marvelous good that if it were no longer available, I’d thirst to have it despite the difficulties.
And all the “irritations” in my little world I take in hand and kiss because I’m still here. I get to live again today, to work and play, to love and be loved. Who knows—2012 may bring gain or loss; it may bring flood or drought. But whatever is coming, I’d be sorry to miss it.
It’s a wonderful life.
Are there scenes from any movies or books that help put life into perspective for you?