Clarence, from “It’s a Wonderful Life”
I would have to say that “It’s a Wonderful Life” is my favorite movie of all time. There are so many reasons that is so. For one, Jimmy Stewart has always been my favorite actor. While he played many characters in movies, the man himself was the model of the man I wanted to be like. From all accounts, he was a kind, charitable man, loved by all. Like him, I had a passion for flying and we both became US Air Force pilots. I drove by his old home in Los Angeles when I was there on business. It was in a normal neighborhood filled with very nice, but not ostentatious homes. A sidewalk led to his door. No gates!
Donna Reed was one of the most beautiful actresses at the time. A real girl next door type, although I never saw one like her. I loved the “Buffalo Bill won’t you come out tonight” scene, which came after they had fallen into the pool at the school dance. And who didn’t love 'Bert and Ernie'? It is my belief that the names of the Sesame Street characters came from this movie. The real reason, however, that I loved this movie is the story and its message. In my opinion, it has one of the greatest lessons ever told, outside the Bible, and delivered in a way that could not be missed or misunderstood!
The obvious message is in the quote of Clarence, the second class angel sent to help George when he was at his wits end. It is an encouraging message for all those, like George Bailey, who feel like their lives have not reached their potential. Everyone’s life touches others, some in bad ways, but mostly in good ways. Even a smile from a stranger at the right time can change your day from awful to pleasant. Knowing how you can make the lives of others better, makes your life have much more meaning!
Similar to the opening scene of the movie, many years ago my children were sledding down Art Hill, a famous sledding location in St. Louis. It was a Sunday with my wife showing the kids a good time while I was on duty in the Air National Guard. At the bottom of Art Hill was a large lake built for the 1904 World’s Fair. If you saw the Frank Capra movie, you know what happened next.
My three kids, ages nine, seven, and three, built up speed and barreled down the steep hill. As instructed, they raised their feet to go faster. About half way down, the sled spun around, going backward. They were zooming looking back up the hill when suddenly they were airborne, rocketing into the frigid lake. My wife was at the top of the hill and was in horror as she saw what was happening and raced, slipping and falling down the hill to help them. Fortunately, bystanders saw these three young children break through the ice, splashing into this cold lake! Wonderfully, five men jumped in to pull them to safety!
If not saving their lives these men, who we never came to know, saved them from any number of harmful effects. The kids were scared and shivering, but not hurt, although my three year old daughter became quite sick afterwards. This incident, lasting just moments, had a lasting impact on my family. I’m sure it also impacted all those involved. Thank goodness these men were there and reacted!
Parents, friends, teachers, and strangers--all have a combined effect on any one of us. The impact may come in a moment, a day, or a lifetime. The impact can be seemingly minimal or outright obvious as in the sledding incident. But can there be any doubt, however, that those that raise us have the most impact on how we think, learn, and live? Every day, something can happen that will change the course of a life--and you may not even know it happened.
What if you are a father?
- Are you there for support?
- Are you a good example?
- Do you provide and protect?
- Do you show love in a way that is known or sensed in no uncertain way?
Taking liberties with Clarence’s quote,
Strange, isn’t it? Each father’s life touches his children’s lives in so many ways, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?