Saturday, May 3, 2014
One of my all-time favorite movies is It's a Wonderful Life. It is one of those movies that comes together so well--the writing, directing, acting, filming, sets...that it becomes greater than the sum of its parts. There are many reasons to like this film, with its lovable characters, great story, and message of hope. But it also contains a small detail that sums up a big part of the concept for me. It is that knob on top of the stair post.
Upon their marriage, George and Mary Bailey adopt a big old abandoned house in great disrepair. Initially George doesn't see the potential in it, but Mary describes it as romantic. She works hard over the years fixing it up while raising a bunch of kids, as George is busy under the stress of his job.
For some reason, they never get around to fixing the finial on the newel post at the base of the staircase. I can imagine, as a homeowner, how this could easily happen. There are always so many projects that some never get done. Or, it could be like my son's bedposts. Three of the four finials always come off, and no matter what we try to do to fix them it never works.
Anyhow, whenever George is going up the stairs he inevitably grasps the knob only to have it come off in his hand. Then he has to go back and replace it. This is profound to me because it is just how life really is. There is always some little annoying thing (or many, really) to encounter every day, over and over again.
Poor George, in desperate straits and at the end of his rope in the story, just about loses his mind with rage when that knob comes off. I know the feeling well, as many times in maniacal frustration I have taken out my fury on inanimate objects. Not that I have ever been in the situation he was in. It took a lot to push George to that point.
And yet he does get there, to where he wishes he'd never been born. Until through "divine" intervention George comes to his senses, kind of a twist on A Christmas Carol...
As George sees the world through new eyes suddenly everything is different, although his predicament has not changed. It is before he is rescued that George runs through the town abounding with joy and thanksgiving, yelling "Merry Christmas!" to everyone including his nemesis.
As George bursts into his home looking for his family, he runs up the stairs--inadvertently grabbing the knob--he turns, holding it tightly, he lifts it up and kisses it!
Of course, every moment of every day cannot be like the high point of a movie. There will always be annoyances and problems, and I won't usually feel like embracing them. But how I do respond reveals my heart. And it has much less to do with the circumstances than I like to admit.