I am an idealist. I want our country to live up to it’s ideals. And I also find movies a wonderful expression of our ideals. Every winter, I watch two movies. It’s a Wonderful Life and Scrooge. Both are stories of transformation. Together, these stories are powerful reminders about motivations, duty, choices and impact. The protagonists are very different from each other.
George Bailey is a dutiful man who gives up his dream of world travel, college and honeymoon to support his father, the family business and the townspeople. Each choice was made in the moment, because “it was the right thing to do.” Yet Bailey feels trapped and adopts a martyr-like attitude for several decades.
Bailey’s transformation occurs when he is awarded a peek at his town and the townspeople, had he “never been born.” Bedford Falls is replaced by Potterville. Without Bailey’s leadership and his guiding principle of human dignity, the townspeople cave to Mr. Potter’s vision of greed and selfishness. Mr. Potter has ownership of the town, where every business contributes to his personal wealth. As Bailey understands the difference he made in the lives of people he loves, he moves from frustrated duty to joyful acceptance as a leader in his community. He chooses love of life instead of personal martyrdom.
Compare this to the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge who -- like Mr. Potter -- is a money lender. His worldview has been warped by a sad childhood where he saw wealth as an antidote. His transformation includes a peek at himself from early childhood to young adulthood and his eventual role as an employer as he travels with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come. The sweetness of Tiny Tim, his employee’s lame child, reaches Scrooge’s heart and his desire to help others grows. In short, Scrooge develops empathy. He recognizes how human dignity cannot be purchased; instead, it is a virtue anyone can embody. He also chooses love of life instead of selfishness, loneliness and wealth protection.
My dream for our country is for each of us to transform ourselves, and through our personal transformation, influence our country in positive ways. I see a society filled with people who are both dignified and honoring the dignity in others. I see people who are generous with themselves and gentle in their treatment of others. I see people who love their lives and find gratitude in their mundane activities as well as their special moments. I see a community of joyful people who engage with each other to make decisions for the common good while balancing the needs of individuals. I see a country where competition is a tool to “raise all boats” and collaboration is how we find the best solutions for all.
What is the transformation you will make for our country?
Happy New Year!