Thursday, December 22, 2011

December 22: Never Thinks of Himself

The original Bert and Ernie
"He never thinks about himself, God, that's why he's in trouble."

Ernie Bishop, the cab driver played by Frank Faylen, says this prayer at the beginning of It's A Wonderful Life.  It's one of several prayers that start the film.  The whole town of Bedford Falls, all of the people George Bailey has helped, is praying for George, who has reached the brink of suicide.  Ernie's prayer pretty much sums up George's character.  Selfless.  Generous.  Loving.  He gives and gives, without any thought of himself.

I'd like to say I'm exactly like George Bailey.  That I always think of others.  That I'm never jealous of other people's successes.  That I would take the last dollar in my pocket and give it to a Salvation Army bell ringer.  However, I am not George.  If you're one of my loyal disciples, you already know:  I can be petty, angry, envious, small, stingy, cheap, vindictive.  You name it.

Everyone should be more like George, and everyone should have a George in their lives.  In the last few days, I've been pretty focused on my problems.  It's the time of year when generosity of spirit and wallet are expected.  All I can say about myself is that my spirit is willing, but my wallet is weak.  That's what gets me into trouble.  I would love to buy my sister the laptop computer she has on her Christmas wish list.  She's getting a calendar.  I'd love to give my daughter the cell phone she wants.  She's getting some clothes I got at a clothing resale (and maybe a board game, if it's not too expensive).

If I were a better person, and a better Christian, I wouldn't worry so much about money.  I would put my faith in God, trust that the money for the car loan or the mortgage or the gas bill will be available when I need it.  Instead, I'm worrying about the $350 I wasted on trying to get my mortgage refinanced.  My faith isn't strong enough to let go of my worries.  I have too many control issues.  I don't even like to change what I eat for breakfast.

Of course, George isn't perfect, either.  He gets into a little trouble.  Not because he's cheap or vindictive or petty.  No, George's problem is that he doesn't recognize the treasures of his life.  He's blind to all the goodness of his friends and family.  Clarence helps him with this myopia.  By the end of the film, George doesn't care whether he's in prison or the hospital or Buckingham Palace.  As long as he's surrounded by the people he loves.

I guess being a good George isn't about being perfect.  It's about being the best friend/husband/father I can be.  That's what Ernie's talking about in his conversation with God.  That's why God sends Clarence to help George out.

Now, if only Clarence had a spare Nobel Prize in his pocket for Saint Marty.

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