“ALL YOU CAN TAKE WITH YOU
IS THAT WHICH YOU’VE GIVEN AWAY.”
~ sign beneath a portrait of George Bailey’s dad,
hanging in the office of the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan
Loverly day after Christmas, I decide it is time to laze around. Pull out Wonderful Life and indulge… right in the middle of the day. And with the marvel of technology and a button for pause, discover a hidden pearl in a scene no faster than the blink of George’s eye…
Newlywed George — torn between the reality of Potter’s smoke screen phone threats and what to do to talk the frightened crowd down as they demand money no longer there –flicks his eyes across the gentle ones of his father, in a portrait hanging by his desk. As if for wisdom… in barely the breath of a moment.
All these years, all the times I’ve watched this scene, I miss an almost imperceptible message –moving too fast for me to completely take in.
But today I see it – how words lived by can split an answer across his features, like clouds racing sunlight across a field.
“What is written there in the frame below the portrait?” I wonder, pausing, going back.
Mmmm…. inspiration. Subtle. Sensitive. Life-changing.
Like the moment in Gower’s pharmacy, when a tender-hearted boy recognizes a man broken by sorrow… whirls around with desperate question, and poison in his hand. Sees a sign pointing him… Ask Dad, he knows.
George, inspired by his father’s heart and compassion…to love, to give away all.
Gower stirred by a little boy who took a beating rather than see him hurt.
War hero and brilliant brother Harry Bailey, Tycoon Sam Wainwright, simple taxi driver Ernie, humble bartender Martini, mixed up young woman, Violet… so many moved, transformed, given a new lease on life by one man who thought he’d never accomplished anything…
And in the end, a starry new thought gleams before me.
What of Scrooge-like Potter? Is it possible for him to be moved…changed…by one man’s wonderful life?
What has made Potter the self-serving, bitterly angry, lonely man he is?
Who was his inspiration… to hate, to hoard?
I would like to hope that in the end, the story of the richest man in Bedford Falls… may have changed the most monetary-yet-poverty-minded one, opened his eyes and heart like the ghost of Christmas past and future to Ebenezer.
That all the prayers and light and bells of joy ringing over the Bailey household that night might have split a crack in the ice jam around Potter’s heart…there, in the solitary behind- the-scenes…
Turned his envy to openness…
Led him to join in…find his heart among those who were giving theirs away…
Because of all in Bedford Falls… maybe he was most in need of God’s angel.
Like George, I often wonder… what is my one little life doing?
Like George, I don’t tend to see.
I don’t think George had any inkling until that night, under his tree – how he truly had lassoed the moon.
Because one man inspired, who inspired another and another and another.
“Your faithfulness inspires us…,” someone gifts me this Christmas, with simple, stunning words that open windows of Him in my heart. Because I don’t often feel… inspirational.
Because they inspire me…with their bravery, openness to others, beauty in God-given gifts.
I think again of one candle flowing light…to light…to light…
“Mommy,” young Janie Bailey asks, “Should I pray…?”
“Yes, Janie,” she urges, “pray hard.”
“Me too?” little Tommy echoes.
“You, too, Tommy,” Mary enjoins.
And somewhere above the glory of Hark the Herald Angels and Auld Lang Syne ringing over George’s broad smile…in each of our hearts…
I hear the Father inspire now — “You too,” He says.
So that, taking “Zuzu’s petals” from our upturned hands… He alone can graft the fallen back into the Rose.
To inspire and be inspired.
Petal by petal.
Prayer by prayer.
Grace by grace.
© Pam Depoyan