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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student


OPINION: Unwrapping the real message of 'It's a Wonderful Life' this holiday season


If your family is anything like mine, every Christmas, your parents inevitably put the entire family on the couch to watch a Christmas movie. Every family has their tradition — ours is watching the 1946 “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The black-and-white version, of course.  

Growing up, this was my absolute least favorite Christmas movie. I thought it was boring, the characters talked funny and I didn’t understand why everyone liked it so much. “It’s a classic,” they would say. That didn't stop me from protesting and, eventually, my parents let me go do something else halfway through the movie.  

Sounds childish? Absolutely. But I was a child then, so I guess that tracks.  

My parents and I look back on those moments now and laugh. They will never miss an opportunity to bring up the irony that the movie is my best friend’s absolute favorite. Not just his favorite Christmas movie, but his favorite movie of all time. It wasn't until he was the one who made me sit down and watch the movie, all the way through this time, that I fell in love with the film. Now, as an adult, I have begun to understand the movie's message and the important lessons it contains. I realized it is more than just a movie about Christmas, it is an incredible story about the power of hope and the importance of family. 

For starters, the movie is a strong argument the world is a better place with you in it.  

In the movie, George Bailey’s uncle, who works with him at the loan company, lost an envelope with $8,000. Feeling as though he has failed himself, his family, and the town, George wishes he had never been born. After hearing the prayers of various friends and family of George, an angel-in-training named Clarence, who hasn’t earned his wings yet, comes to Earth to help George change his mind. Clarence does this by showing George how different his town and the lives of his loved ones would be if George had never been born.  

Spoiler alert: everything gets worse. If George had never been born, he would never have saved his brother from drowning when they were kids. He would never have stopped the pharmacist he worked for as a child from accidentally poisoning and killing a young boy. The list goes on.  

The point is we can never really understand the impact we have had on the world around us. George couldn't see just how much he had improved the lives of everyone in his town until Clarence showed him what it would have been like if he had never lived. Just like with George, the world is a better place with you in it.  

Eventually, George realizes this too. He begs Clarence to let him go back to his real life and his family. When he does return, all of his friends and neighbors have come to his house to give him the money he needs to make up for what his uncle lost. They sing and the movie ends happily ever after.  

For the entire movie, George was trying to get away from Bedford Falls, but couldn't. He felt like a failure because he wasn't accomplishing what he wanted in his life, so when it all came tumbling down, he didn't realize what he'd gained along the way until the whole town rallied behind him. The gift Clarence gives him is the opportunity to step back and appreciate all he has instead of comparing it to what he wants.  

This holiday season, take a page out of George Bailey’s book. Take a moment to examine your life and what matters. The friends and family who love you. The people that truly make it a wonderful life. 

Ainsley Foster (she/her) is a sophomore studying elementary education. 

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