George Bailey (James Stewart), Mary Bailey (Donna Reed),
and their youngest daughter Zuzu (Karolyn Grimes)
in Frank Capra’s 1946 It’s a Wonderful Life.
Jaded again and again by inescapable life demands, George, played by Jimmy Stewart, misses out on one opportunity after another. The compounded frustration explodes one Christmas Eve when George’s crazy uncle loses an all-important stack of cash shortly before the arrival of a bank examiner at the family business. When George asks for help from the town’s greedy tycoon, he’s threatened with arrest. To top it off, his reluctant prayer for help is followed by a punch in the face at Martini’s Bar.
If you’re like me, you’ve watched It’s a Wonderful Life more Christmases than you can count, and you know what happens next.
“I Wish I’d Never Been Born”
“I suppose it would have been better if I’d never been born at all,” George mutters after another seemingly disastrous encounter that night.
“What’d you say?” asks Clarence, his new-found guardian angel.
“I said I wish I’d never been born!”
“Oh, you mustn’t say things like that,” Clarence begins, before trailing off in apparent consultation with other members of the heavenly host. Suddenly, he declares, “You’ve got your wish. You’ve never been born.”
George then receives a unique gift — the ability to see a universe in which he never existed.
Sucked Out of the Universe
It’s eerie watching George wander through Bedford Falls (now “Pottersville”), visiting the places he was once well known and finding himself a stranger. He begins to understand the enormity of his nonexistence as, one by one, his friends, mother and even his beloved wife have no idea who he is.
Each time George sees another aspect of life in Bedford Falls without the touch of his presence, he sees how much of a difference he actually made. Not by doing anything particularly incredible, but by just being there. In his own eyes, his life was inconsequential and insignificant. In reality, his life was irreplaceable.
In final desperation, George cries out to Clarence, who has since disappeared, “I want to live again! I want to live again!” Once again, Clarence grants his wish.
Back in the universe into which he was born, George’s perspective has changed. He recognizes the blessings before him, even though his struggles are still there. He knows that his life, hard as it may seem, is good.
The Missing Millions
Every year at Christmas, we see what the make-believe world of Bedford Falls misses out on without the fictional George Bailey. But what does our world miss out on each time a real life gets sucked out of the universe?
In reality, the world is missing over 1.4 billion irreplaceable lives that could have been. These are lives that have been aborted worldwide just since 1980. In the United States alone, almost 60 million have been aborted since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Like George Bailey after Clarence grants his first wish, these lives were never born. But unlike George, they didn’t ask for it.
It’s Wonderful Because it’s Life
Some say that many babies are aborted because they, due to circumstances, wouldn’t have a chance at a wonderful life. But as the Christmas classic reminds us, that’s not the point.
George wasn’t dealt that great of a hand. He was the one that couldn’t go to college. The one in a dead-end job. The one with a house falling apart and kids he couldn’t afford and a wife he squabbled with at Christmastime. The one possibly headed to prison. His life wasn’t perfect. Many times it was painful.
In the movie, George Bailey’s life isn’t wonderful because it’s extraordinary. It’s wonderful because it’s life. He realized that when he stood on the bridge and cried out to heaven to get it back.
The babies aborted each year aren’t able to cry, “I want to live again.” But as a new year is about to begin, we can renew efforts to ensure that as many new lives as possible are given their chance at a wonderful life.
Click here for more from National Right to Life.