A Far Way On To Dawn

The winter solstice is upon us, and tonight will officially be the longest night of the year. And, brother, if there ever was a year that demanded a dark night, 2016 is it. I won’t belabor the point by listing many of the challenging and disheartening things that have taken place since this January 1st, and I won’t try to ameliorate them by pointing out the many bright spots the year offered either. To do that is to dwell in the temporal, and relying on the things of this world for our emotional equilibrium is foolish at best.

However, as I stand on the edge of 40, I must admit that the darkness is a little harder to shake off than it used to be. It’s not because I’m growing cynical (though that has happened to some degree) or because I feel lost. On the contrary, I understand myself and my purpose in this life better than ever before.

I think it has something to do with perspective. With a few decades behind me, it’s easier to see things as they are. In middle age, we recognize that time (for us at least) isn’t infinite, some endless skein of hours that spools itself out into perpetuity. The scissors come, the thread is severed, and there is an end to things as we know them. Losing my grandfather to Alzheimer’s Disease, praying for a friend who, though only 42 and the mother of two young girls, learned she has lymphoma, watching marriages end in divorce and death all impressed the same inescapable fact on me—nothing in this life is guaranteed.

In this hard year of bitterness and animosity, with thoughts of mortality in mind, I came across this page in Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and it stopped me cold.

somethingwicked

 

The character having these heavy thoughts, Charles Holloway, is a 54-year-old amateur philosopher and library janitor who bemoans the loss of his youth and potential. (Though — slight spoiler alert — there’s a great moment of redemption for him in the book.) As someone who has been awake at 3:00 AM several times this year, I concur that it is a hard hour, a sharp and lonely sliver of time. With the house sleeping around you and the world outside the window quiet and still, it’s easy to believe you’re the only soul left and that all else is darkness.

But unlike Mr. Bradbury, who considered himself a “delicatessen religionist,” I believe in “Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes. Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days.” I take comfort in the words of Paul who tells us, “We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

This year, our family used an Advent wreath at home for the first time, and I have found that the intentional lighting of candles, of discussing what they mean, and allowing them to focus my attention on Jesus has been restorative. Yes, there is darkness, but there is also hope. There is love. There is joy. There is peace. Why? Because there is Christ, the center of our celebration. He is where our hearts must dwell, and he is the only source of true comfort in a world that seems to have skidded sideways.

On this, the longest night of the year, and every night of my life, I will not stare at the darkness. Instead, I look to the white candle in the center of that wreath, the one that represents Jesus—the God-man who came to redeem and will return to rescue. I sing the last three verses of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” in expectation, knowing that my waiting will not be in vain, for the Dayspring is coming.

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

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Repeat the Sounding Joy

Merry Christmas to you and yours! I’ve really been looking forward to the December 2013 issue of In Touch Magazine to hit homes because it is filled with some super cool stuff. Seriously, we tackled everything from Jesus Christ’s genealogy to the truth about the “War on Christmas.”

As always, you can get our magazine in print free of charge by visiting this page and giving us your mailing address. There are even more wonderful articles and changes in store for 2014, so it’s a great time to start receiving our publication!

Below is my contribution to this issue. I was captivated by the ideas of the moments before the angels appeared before the shepherds. Though they’d looked at the stars countless times before, they were still looking. And that’s exactly what we should be doing today. Let me know what you think in the comments below or–better yet–leave a comment on the In Touch website.

Ho Ho Horrible?

It’s officially December, which means Christmas will be here before we know it. This year is our first in a house–a real home with a garage and trash day and lawn service–so we thought we’d celebrate Jesus’ birth in fine style with a real Christmas tree, which is something we’ve never had. It’s been up for two days, and the floor is covered in needles. But the house smells great (as does the cat’s head).

My grandmother was kind enough to give us a box or three of ornaments to save us a little money, but we wanted the tree to have a few things on it that were uniquely us. My parents’ tree is covered in different items gathered over a lifetime spent celebrating together, and there’s a story behind almost every piece. Wayne and I began that tradition this year. Here’s what I picked…

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Yes, it’s a very traditional choice, I know. However, it didn’t seem fitting to have a tree without a Rudolph themed ornament on it. Also, it’s a tree decoration depicting something decorating a tree. It was too meta to pass up.

Wayne chose to go with something a little less traditional but very much him.

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Yep, that’s Animal (his favorite Muppet) wearing a Santa hat. It’s positively festive if I do say so myself.

There are also a few musical notes and instruments—mostly French horns due to the fact they’re ubiquitous at Christmas. Sadly, few people associate the trombone (or even the sackbut) with the holidays.

I look forward to building our collection of tree trimmings, but there are also things my parents have that I look forward to owning one day. None more than the lovely and gracious decoration we fondly call Ho Ho.

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My mother made this guy when she was in middle school. Originally, the thing was supposed to be a pillow, but she got fed up with it less than halfway through. Instead, it’s pinned to what looks to be a piece of cardboard. There are six large circles about the size of liter glass bottles, and I swear I can see the faint impression of 7UP in one of them. The “Ho Ho” is done skillfully in the best felt her craft basket could offer. (Who cares if it’s one “Ho” short!?) You will notice that he is a bit askew. That’s because she lost count several times and made a few extra loops without changing colors first. Also, she didn’t have any black yarn, so Santa’s boots and eyes are an electric shade of purple. When I was a kid, I imagined Ho Ho was phasing, like someone on Star Trek, or he was a ghost taking shape. (I think I was mostly concerned because the poor little guy doesn’t have any arms.)

It started as a joke of sorts really, putting Ho Ho out in the house. For years, it was set above the doorway separating the den from the living room at my grandparents’ house in Arkansas. But when we moved to Florida, Ho Ho was placed in the box with essential decorations like the manger scene and precious and irreplaceable homemade ornaments. It wasn’t even a question of where it deserved to be.

At first, I think we gleefully put it out in a place of prominence to give my mom some grief. But every year, we’d all cheer when it came out of the box. Someone was given the honor of placing him on a table or a shelf where everyone who came to our home could see him in all his glory. And it was a big deal to do it! The first time Wayne was asked to do the honors, his face lit up because he knew he was truly a member of the family. I think Elisha handled Elijah’s mantle less carefully. (Okay, that may be gilding the lily a bit, but you get the idea.)

One of the many things I love about Christmas is that we all celebrate it, but no two families do so in exactly the same way. Last year, I wrote about Chipmunk Day, which is something I’ve always thought was fairly unique to my clan. However, there are tons of other things we look forward to. Getting new pajamas, making my dad sing “Two Turtle Doves” because it irritates the snot out of him, watching Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, eating party pizzas, reading the Christmas story from Luke, playing hearts and dominoes, my grandparents sneaking into our rooms on Christmas morning to sing and wake us up—this is the stuff that a truly joyful yuletide is made of. Other families may do totally different things to celebrate, and I’m willing to bet they look forward to their traditions as much as we do ours. Whatever you love as a family, that’s Christmas.

It’s pretty safe to say that no one else in the entire world has a Ho Ho. And that’s what makes him perfect. Martha Stewart might not call him a “good thing,” but we sure do.

Do you have some Christmas traditions you’re looking forward to? Do you have a “Ho Ho” of your own that’s already in a place of honor at your house? I’d love to hear about your traditions. Tell me about them in the comments section below!

Merry Christmas!!!

Selah In the Sky

It’s Christmastime at last! However, if you’re running a little low on Christmas spirit already or just need to be reminded what the whole things about anyway, try asking the stars.

If you would like to read the article online (and listen to the song I mention), please visit the In Touch Magazine homepage by clicking HERE.

Also, as always, if you would like a free subscription to In Touch Magazine, you can get one any time, by clicking HERE.

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Happy Chipmunk Day!!!

December 21st, like all of its neighbors that separate us from the full on festivities of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, is often overlooked or hastily torn from the calendar in an impotent rage that makes us wish time travel in a DeLorean was possible. However, we should not be so quick to dismiss this seemingly run-of-the-mill day or slap the incorrect moniker “Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve” on it.

Let us not forget that December 21st is the earliest possible day for the winter solstice! Likewise, there are many hallmark moments we should remember and observe on this oft maligned twenty-four hour period. For instance, did you know that on this day…

  • In the year 69, Vespasian was declared Roman emperor.
  • The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620.
  • The HMS Challenger launched in 1872.
  • The timeless play, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen premiered in Copenhagen on a snowy night in 1879.
  • The Royal Canadian Dragoons and Royal Canadian Regiment were formed in 1883.
  • The first crossword puzzle appeared in the New York Times in 1913.
  • Snow White, the first full-length animated film, graced the screen in 1937.
  • The first open heart transplant was performed in South Africa in 1967. Granted, the patient died 18 days later, but still…
  • Many famous and illustrious people celebrate their arrival in the world including Thomas Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury, martyr, and saint), John Russell (who gave us the uber annoying Jack Russell Terrier), Benjamin Disraeli, Phil Donahue, Frank Zappa, Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Romano, Andy Van Slyke, and Kiefer Sutherland.
  • Still many more chose this day to use as their launching pad into the vast and unknown reaches of eternity. Some famous folks who bought the farm outright on 12/21 include Thomas the Apostle, Giovanni Boccaccio, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Smith Patton, Jr., Frank B. Kellogg, Albert King, Scobie Breasley (an Australian jockey whose name I just really wanted to include in this list because it sounds cool), and Paul de Man.

Yes, December 21st is a veritable cornucopia of moments both trivial and watershed! However, that is not the reason I’m blogging about it. Today is a day that you, too, can celebrate and use to put a little “Whazzup!” in your yearly wassailing.

I’ve always loved the “Creeper Face” Simon is making in this picture! (From 2or3lines.blogspot.com)

Unless you’re a descendant of Ebeneezer Scrooge, you know this song well. Most people know and love the lyrics “Christmas, Christmastime is near…” sung in an impossibly high register. The disgruntled adoptive father who just wants to get it done and two whiny demands for a hula hoop have made this song a standard in the holiday playlist of many radio stations in America for the last forty years.

The record came in packaging with this image on the front, and my mother and aunt loved it so much that they played it non-stop when they first got it. Why? Since our ancestors first began sharecropping the cotton fields of Arkansas, we’ve been Christmas enthusiasts. Out of that great love for one another and the holiday, we’ve slowly added traditions that make it special. For instance, someone always has to dance to “Holly Jolly Christmas,” we have to have the “Festive Yule Log” burning on the television when we’re opening presents (It’s hot in Florida, so real fires aren’t an option.), and while we eat a true meal on Christmas afternoon, the eve meal is a plethora of junk food like cheese sticks, party pizzas, potato skins, and other finger foods.

We always sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and my father (who hates it) has to sing “Two Turtle Doves” because that means he, the curmudgeon, has to sing all twelve rounds. Without fail, someone reads Luke 2, the Scripture that chronicles the birth of Jesus, and we follow that with the things for which we are thankful and what we’re glad the year brought us. Sometimes, I write a Christmas story or poem that we read together, or my husband and I perform a mini concert on our instruments. And we always get new pajamas we change into the instant the sun hints at disappearing behind the horizon.

And while we’ll open a few presents on Christmas Eve to take the edge off our desire to tear into each and every one of the packages stashed under the tree, up the stairs, and in the dining room, never more than a handful make the sacrifice for the greater good. What we usually do is sort them into piles for each person so the process is streamlined the next morning…though it does make the floor a bit hard to navigate! And when we do open those presents, we do NOT do so in a feeding frenzy style, each person wrapping and giving a collective “Thank You” to one another at the end. No, sir! Each person takes a turn while everyone watches (unless two or three people have the same gift. Those can be opened simultaneously). Once they are opened,  gifts are admired, stories of their purchases are shared and bragged on (especially if the item was found on sale), and there is always an “ooh” or “aah” when warranted. Oftentimes, it takes five hours for us all to open, and we often take a break to stretch, fetch more coffee, and snack on cookies and candies not nommed the night before.

“But why Chipmunk Day?” I hear you asking. Well, we started celebrating it when I was a kid. It’s the beginning of “For Real Christmas” for us. After all, the big day is only ninety-six hours away! We don’t give gifts or anything; it usually involves phone calls, messages on Facebook pages, the occasional card, and other things like that. Yes, it is a way for us to begin decompressing, to begin focusing our attention not on the commitments that keep us separated from one another over the course of the year, but rather on those things that bring us together—faith, family, and tradition. “Hurry Christmas, hurry fast.” Indeed, I’m with you in that sentiment, Chipmunks. I’m in such a good mood already that I almost don’t care about the modifier problem in that sentence. 🙂

Merry Christmas, everyone!

My Precioussssss…….

Hooray for another Top Ten Tuesday! This week at The Broke and the Bookish, posters are listing and discussing “Books I Want To Give As Gifts This Christmas.” I have to tell you who and why as well, so this should be an interesting list. Honestly, I don’t give that many books as gifts, and I don’t know why that is. Perhaps I’m like Gollum and hoard books for no other reason than I want them all for myself. 🙂 (I think I just found a New Year’s Resolution I might actually keep!) Well, I am giving two for Christmas this year, so I’ll start with them. (Here’s hoping those two people don’t read this blog!) The other eight are books I would like to give to people.

The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit—I’m giving this beautiful boxed set to my cousin this year. He loves the movies and mentioned that he’d like to read The Hobbit this year before the movie first came out. Here’s hoping he can take some time out of his busy IB schedule to actually enjoy some fiction!

 

Wham! The Art and Life of Roy Lichetenstein—This one is for my brother who loves Lichtenstein’s pop art. I leafed through it before I wrapped it, and it looks to be well done–thorough and informational. It’s a little thin for my taste, but it will look good on a coffee table and make for a good conversation starter. I think Jarrod will really like it!

 

Death Comes to Pemberly—I’d have to give this one to my friend Audrey who took a Jane Austen class with me in graduate school. Our favorite book by the lovely Ms. Austen is Persuasion, and I think we’d have a good time laughing at and enjoying this one. I don’t think Elizabeth, despite her many virtues, would make a great sleuth. She should leave that to Sherlock.

Game of Thrones (Book 1 of The Song of Ice and Fire Series)—I’d give this book to my husband if I thought he’d read it. It’s lengthy, and he doesn’t really love reading that much. However, I’d love to have a book in common with him besides Alas Babylon! That was the only book I ever recommended that he actually read cover to cover and wanted to discuss with me. Also, the added perk would be I could then justify adding HBO to our cable package so we could watch season two of the series when it starts in April of 2012.

 

The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook—Why a book like this even exists is beyond me! I suppose fans are just this into the trilogy. There’s a vacuum in the fantasy world since the Harry Potter books and films ended, and this looks like it’s going to fill the void nicely. This one would have to go to my friend, Renee, at work who loves the series as much as I do and would get the humor behind this gift. (And who would likely make some of the recipes with me!)

 

This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession—This each and every one of my musical friends be they band director, music teacher, or humble player like myself. I read through the first chapter of this one while I was waiting for a Margaret Atwood lecture at Emory last year and was hooked. Why have I never gone back and picked this one up for myself!? It is a combination of “hard” neurological science and emotional reactions to music that explains why it is such a powerful force for humans.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks—This one would be a gift for my friend, Sherri, who is a former Anatomy and Biology teacher as well as a Registered Nurse. I know she would love the mix of culture and medicine in this one. If you’ve never heard of her, don’t be alarmed. No one has outside of the medical community. Here’s what the book jacket summary says: “Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years….Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.” Interesting, no?

Throw Them All Out—This one is for my friend, Bree, who is as adamant a political junkie as I have ever seen. She is passionate, moral, and outspoken in all the right ways. She stands up for her right for free speech…as well as the rights of those who disagree with her. However, she’ll disassemble their arguments like a Marine cleaning his rifle soon afterwards. 🙂

 

The Walking Dead: Days Gone By (Volume 1)—This one is for my dad who loves the TV show and is always asking my brother and me what is going to happen next. It is a darned fine television show; I’ll give it that. However, any bibliophile will always tell you that the book, without fail, is much better than the movie or television series. I don’t honestly think I’ve ever seen a film that was better than the book. Have you?

 

A History of the World in 100 Objects—This one is a great looking read for the historian friends I have like Jill and Jeff. From the credit card to the hand axe, this book chronicles the objects that have helped cultures flourish as well as those that have caused their demise. I’d be interested to read this one myself. However, isn’t that always the case with book nerds? We’d like to read the books we give away?

Okay, that’s my official list for this week. What books are you giving away? What books do you hope show up in your stocking or wrapped under the tree?

Also, have you ever read a book you were giving someone else before you gave it to them? I’d love to hear about it!

Dollars and Sense in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Image from Wikipedia.org

Saturday night, Wayne and I finally had a minute to settle down, and we chose to spend it curled up with the “kittehs in teh city” to watch It’s a Wonderful Life. Wayne had seen it in bits and pieces but never from start to finish, which meant that he, for all intents and purposes, was really watching it for the first time. I, on the other hand, well-versed in all things Christmas and cinematic, was doing so for roughly the thirty-bijillionth time.

For those of you who don’t know my family, we heavily pepper our conversations with movie quotes. In one sitting, we might lob lines from Ghostbusters, The King and I, El Dorado, The Princess Bride, The Usual Suspects, White Christmas, Flaming Star, Major League, and Jaws back and forth so rapidly that those who don’t watch what the variety of films we do might think we’re speaking in a foreign language. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m an auditory learner who absorbs knowledge via listening and discussion (a big plus for me in college!) who can remember most of a movie’s dialogue after two or three viewings.

Image from IFC.com

Okay, back to It’s a Wonderful Life. I probably watch it three or four times every Christmas season, which makes for at least one hundred viewings. Each time, a bell rings and an angel gets some wings, George offers to lasso the moon, people jump in a swimming pool because it’s there, George is thwarted each and every time he tries to escape Bedford Falls, and George and Mary share that awesome kiss over the telephone. However, for the first time, I finally noticed that this classic feel-good film actually contains some fascinating socioeconomic and cultural elements.

Perhaps it’s the continued presence of the Occupy Wall Street protestors in the news or my own changing political outlook that caused me to take note of George Bailey and Mr. Potter as more than allegorical devices. I may never know. However, I though it interesting enough to point out a few key scenes for consideration.

Scene #1–“Peter Bailey was not a businessman”

This is the scene in which George Bailey stands up for his father’s ideals and makes a statement for the working class, thus losing his chance to go to college and forever dooming himself to a life doing the exact thing he feared–counting his pennies and stretching every one until Lincoln screamed for mercy.

Image from mymerrychristmas.com

Potter represents the faceless institution, the bank that loans money based on a person’s value on paper and the rate of return they’re bound to generate. It’s so easy to hate him as he sits in his Attila the Hun wheelchair in a stern black hat with glasses perched, hawk-like, on his nose. He is the epitome of every man or woman whoever denied a loan or hit us with an extra transaction fee we really preferred not to pay. His stance is, “If we just loan money out, people will come to expect it and not work for or value the things they have.” And everyone, on cue, is supposed to say, “That evil, maniacal bastard! How dare he say that about Ernie the taxicab driver! Why that’s the same fella who picked George up when his father had had a stroke, the nice guy who will serenade George and Mary on their impromptu honeymoon!” (Yes, all the exclamation points are necessary. Righteous indignation and all that.)

You (and George) say that because we know Ernie. Potter doesn’t; to him, he’s a social security number and a credit score. George then gives the great counterargument that the rabble he’s talking about “do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community” and that it isn’t “too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath.” They’re better citizens because they have something to be proud of, something they’re working to own while they’re enjoying it. Treat a human being like a human being, and he’ll respond as such. It’s a noble argument to be sure, one that I think held water in the 1940s when this film was released.

I don’t know if any of you have grandparents and parents like mine; they hate buying things on credit and/or taking charity. “What we get, we earn,” my dad used to say when I was a kid. “If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.” That was bred into them as children, and they in turn bred it into me. (By the way, I’m still not thrifty enough by their standards. I’m like a goldfish and enjoy owning and staring at shiny things too much.)

This made me think of the Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac debacle of the last few years, the idea that everyone “deserves” a house. I loathe, and I mean loathe, the word “deserve.” There’s an feeling of entitlement to it that just galls me. Do you want a roof over your head? Very well. Choose one within your means, save up some for a down payment, and then go get that loan for the rest. Work, pay it off, take care of it. It’s yours, and you’re earning it. However, the incredible interest only loans and relaxed loan standards helped to create this horrid economic pit of despair we’re in now. (See! Movie reference! I can’t help it!) The difference between the people of Bedford Falls, each of which George Bailey knows personally and who work hard for their lifestyles, and folks today is the decline of individual work ethic/responsibility as well as the structure of our communities.

Image from rickischults.wordpress.com

It’s easy to blame Potter and call him all sorts of rude names in the simplistic snow globe that is this film and try to transpose the same feelings onto bankers in real life, but that doesn’t wash. They’re businesspeople who are responsible to other, bigger businesspeople for their own livelihoods and mortgage payments. They don’t know each person they loan money to–they can’t. They sometimes have to say no because a person doesn’t look to be good investment in order to protect the money for those people who are. Those who are currently protesting via Occupy Wall Street fail to realize this simple fact; money can’t simply be flung around. It must be created, grown, invested, protected, and used wisely if it is to maintain its value in our culture. We can’t simply give it away and make people who have more of it “pay their fair share” to those who generate nothing and add nothing to the overall economic pot. It really doesn’t grow on trees.

It’s easy to hate those who have more than we do, to envy them and their wealth. They become as faceless to us as we do to them. They’re not all evil, and the “people on the pavement” (as Edwin Arlington Robinson called us) aren’t all innocent victims of circumstance. The truth is never as simple, as black and white you might say, as a film would have us believe.

Scene #2–“We can get through this thing all right”

This is a pretty humbling scene, the stock market crash on the level of the everyman. Many a person likely took advantage of their fellow man as Potter did, offering substantially less for something than it was worth but offering a chance at relative security in a totally insecure time. George, ever the altruistic creature, puts his own money up, loaning it to tide folks over until the situation settles–something unheard of in today’s world.

Image from beaufortcountynow.com

The interesting dichotomy here is the amounts people are requesting. The one gentleman isinsistent on getting his $242 or whatever it is while others are willing to live on less than $20. The money they’re borrowing is from George’s honeymoon (and I’m guessing housekeeping setup) fund. They have $2,000 in their pockets while other folks’ entire accounts are a tenth of that. It demonstrates the wealth of the average client in the Building and Loan compared to that of Potter’s bank. (Look at the difference in the two offices and the set decoration if you need another stunning example. I love how directors can use scenery to tell the tale as well as the actors can.) George is by no means poor, but he’s nowhere near as wealthy as Potter. And the people he’s trying to help are so far down the socioeconomic ladder that they are beyond the old man’s notice.

I like the sense of community that is established in this scene as well as the miniature economics lesson that George gives the hoi polloi. He’s right; banks don’t just sit there full of money. Our money, which is insured by entities like the FDIC, is used to make loans, to generate even more wealth that should be put back into the institution. It should work that way, but the bigger the bank (and the more foolish the loans they make), the less likely this is to work out. However, any community is only as good as the sum of its parts. The only reason a place like the Building and Loan works is because people continue to pay their debts on time and in full. Allowances can be made from time to time, but not for everyone and not constantly. Otherwise, the entire house of cards collapses in on itself. It all comes back to the point I made before….individual responsibility is what provides for prosperity, not an institution or a government. If each person takes care of him/herself it becomes possible for them all to also look out for one another. We should be doing the same right now rather than make brainless and unreasonable demands on our government (which stands even less of a chance of doing something well than a large bank does).

Scene #3–“You’re worth more dead than alive”

This is a hard scene to watch, George grovelling in that tiny chair looking up at the blackhearted man who only means to cast him out in the snow to ruin and destruction rather than help him. Normally very well put together, George looks disheveled here–hair unkempt, suit rumpled, hands roaming aimlessly in hopes of finding an answer (or the illusive $8,000) in one of his coat’s many pockets. In short, he looks much more like the people who have come to rely on him than ever before and is treated as such by Potter who wastes no time in heaping derision on his head.

The most interesting aspect of this scene is the quip about going to the riff-raff for help. If you watch this film looking at  ancillary characters, it gets rather interesting. There are African Americans in this film, most notably the woman named Annie who worked for the Bailey family, as well as immigrants like Mr. Martini–the literal embodiment of the American dream. Black or white, rich or poor, male or female–all walks of life are represented in the final scene of the film, pulling money from pockets, jars, piggy banks, and even sending it in via telegram. Even the people there to arrest George get caught up in the general good will of the moment, donate money, and sing along with the townsfolk!

On the contrary, every time you see Potter, everyone around him is very well-heeled and stoic as well as very male and very white. Me thinketh Frank Capra was making a political statement with this fact as race and creed are never mentioned in this film. After all, George is the shining example of WASPhood (that’s White Anglo Saxon Protestant), but he values the company of someone like Mr. Martini over that of Sam “Hee Haw” Wainwright and even (albeit sarcastically) offers Annie a chair at the dinner table when he and his father are talking. This group embodies the principle of Matthew 22:34-40:

But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’

For a film first released in 1946, I think It’s a Wonderful Life contains an interesting outlook on both social and economic issues. Like them, we should be prepared to live within our means and to make the most of what we earn. Like them, we should be concerned about and care for one another, but it should be done on a community level rather than by a ponderous and hopelessly inefficient government. When we can do these things and live according to the commandments Christ gave us, only then will we all have both dollars and sense.