My favorite movie of all time is It’s a Wonderful Life, and I’ve had a while to really think about how I wanted to tie this one in now that I’ve been on the Blackhawks beat for nearly eight months.
To some it may be corny, or Pollyanna, and I’m okay with that. I once sat at a party and listened to people tear the movie apart. I remember thinking it was a microcosm of our world–a cynical and dismissive worldview of what tells a story of community, and redemption.
It also speaks to the impact one person can have on many.
The message for me always resonates, and it’s my hope that this will for you, too.
George Bailey Finds That It’s a Wonderful Life
George Bailey feels stuck. Driven by the urge to leave his small town of Bedford Falls, one thing after another constantly keeps him from leaving. His father passes away, and instead of going to college (it’s 1928), he gives the money to his brother to attend instead. George? He stays in Bedford Falls, running the business his father once said he was “born to do” so those in his town aren’t bled to death by the greedy Mr. Potter. George watches his brother and friends succeed elsewhere–quite handsomely–while getting out of Bedford Falls. He has a cozy little life with his wife and family, but still wonders “what if,” all the while not realizing the impact he has on so many.
On one snowy Christmas Eve when his war hero brother is being honored in Washington, Bailey’s absent minded uncle loses a large bank deposit. Panic stricken, George’s anxiety is taken out at home before he goes to Potter to ask for help. Told he’s worth more dead than alive, George goes to a bar to drink and throws out one final desperation prayer. No sooner does he finish the prayer that George is punched by a man, whose wife he insulted earlier. Disillusioned, George heads to a bridge, intending to take his life. But a man jumps into the water, distracting George’s intent. He pulls him out of the frigid water and as they converse, reveals that he’s George’s guardian angel.
George scoffs after being told his life is important, wishing instead to never be born. His guardian angel Clarence grants the request, revealing an alternative universe without George in it. It’s here that George realizes his impact on others, and by the end, he returns to the bridge, begging to have his old life back, no matter what comes with it.
Sobbing, George utters the words “I want to live again.” Indeed, everything goes back to the way it was.
The end of the film, famous for Bailey’s euphoric joy, reveals that life truly is wonderful as the entire community comes together to help the man who has helped so many of them. Changed in heart and mind, George’s realization is indeed he has a wonderful life.
Blackhawks Beat Afforded Because of So Many
Life sometimes offers second chances. When it does, one either takes full advantage or watches it pass them by. This hasn’t been lost on me as the last seven months I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the Chicago Blackhawks and have readers consistently returning to the site.
But this entire experience has also brought a lot of personal reflection. It’s reminded that I’m indebted to so many people for where I’m at–that my wonderful life of watching and covering hockey is due to a lot of George Baileys–or Clarences–who showed me the way.
Sometimes it’s unintended lessons, too. There’s a human element to reporting that goes beyond the ice. It’s on display often.
I marvel at how an 18-year-old kid like Connor Bedard can carry the pressures he does, and remains authentic with the youngest of fans. I see someone who has more figured out than I ever did at his age.
A guy like Nick Foligno who has wisdom and humor that always seems perfectly timed. A teacher in Luke Richardson who’s been tasked with a very challenging job–and never snaps at a question. Kindness exudes from him both at the podium, or on the bench.
It shows that sometimes, like George Bailey found out, we don’t realize the effect we have on others. Even in the most indirect of ways.
For large parts of my life, I too, felt trapped and wanting to get out of my own Bedford Falls. For me, it was Illinois. Like George Bailey, I lived in dread fear of being a failure.
But it would be the place I called home for nearly three quarters of my life that would provide the chance of a lifetime. Also like George, I realized that everything I thought I was looking for was right in front of me.
So when I thank every single person who has taken time out of their life to read even one article, I mean it. I’m humbled and grateful.
All around me whether in the media room, in a scrum, or with interactions with followers and readers, it’s been a reminder that kindness and goodwill really is more common than we think. Like the movie where the community bands together to help George, it’s been a similar experience for me in these last seven months.
To those who have helped me to get to where I am, those George Baileys who don’t know all they’ve done for me, thank you. Many were mentors–many more I call friends.
I wish all of you the warmest of wishes this holiday season. It truly is a wonderful life.