The FraGEElay Nature of Life: How $2.50 Saved an Entire Town

For my tenth annual iteration of my Christmas Eve(ish) FraGEElay* post, I find my heart dwelling on another Christmas classic: It’s a Wonderful Life. It is my favorite movie, and I have seen it over 100 times. But my viewing of it the other night brought me a new understanding and insight.

The film (for those living in a sad “I haven’t watched IAWL” world) is about George Bailey being shown the impact he has had on his hometown, Bedford Falls, to prove to him in his darkest hour that his town—and the world—need him. But what I realized this last viewing is that the same could be said about the character of Mrs. Davis. Who is Mrs. Davis, you ask? Well, besides growing up to become Grandma Walton, she is the young woman who asks for $17.50 to tide her over until the bank re-opens (during the scene of the bank run of the Great Depression).

Others in the scene ask for $20 (not to mention $242, Tom), and if Mrs. Davis had done the same, there would have been no “mama dollar and papa dollar” left for George to hold in his hands until the final second of the business day. Instead, they would have been 50¢ short and had to close early, which—according to Mr. Potter—meant that they would never reopen. (Yes, I know this calculation doesn’t account for the possibility of others adjusting what they asked for—perhaps the last person would have seen they were going to run out of money and asked accordingly—but the movie is rife with these kinds of “ifs,” so let’s just go with it.)

The defaulting of the Building and Loan would have meant that Potter would own all of Bedford Falls—and people would no longer have the option to borrow money from a company that has a heart and knows and cares for people. They would only be dealing with a wealthy kingpin who has no regard for the “rabble” of his town (sound familiar?)

Yes, yes, yes—of course George matters to the survival of Bedford Falls, but so does Mrs. Davis. That single, small choice—to ask for $2.50 less than the others—resulted in Potter’s being thwarted in amassing more from those who have less (again…sound familiar??) Pottersville be damned.

Life is fragile in so many ways. We continue to deal with a tenacious virus that has now claimed over 800,000 American lives. (When I wrote last year’s post, the number was “only” 334,000.) And beyond its physical death toll, it has revealed and underscored the depths of the disease of polarization, where minorly inconvenient ways to mitigate the spread of the virus turn into majorly appalling actions like threatening the lives of school board members…over a mask mandate. What the holy fahrvergnugen?  

In my estimation, the world is more fragile than ever. From climate change to the weakening of democracy to systemic “isms” that damage and destroy innumerous lives daily, we need to find a way to examine our problems, learn how to fix them, and then take care of business. Cancers don’t go away by refusing to address them or merely casting blame, and neither will any one of the challenges plaguing our fragile world today.

Sure. Okay. I’ll get right on that.

Rather than taking action, though, I find myself untethered and in an overwhelming (and I mean Brené Brown’s “I’m blown” definition of the word) wave of anxiety that comes from thinking about how to even begin to address these problems. What can I possibly do? Is it too late? Is there time? Will anything truly change?

I don’t really know. What I do know, though, is that sometimes, even something as small as Mrs. Davis’ choice can make a big difference. We may not understand it at the time, but it matters.

It matters a great deal.

Life is fraGEElay.

$2.50 saved Bedford Falls.

All hope is not lost.

I wish you a peaceful, safe, and love-filled Christmas and New Year. May we seek and find a way of being better to one another…in our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world.

*If you are unfamiliar with this reference, it comes from the beloved movie “A Christmas Story.” I can no longer see the word “fragile” and pronounce it in any way other than fraGEElay. That must be Italian.

What Happens When Your Ripples Only Flow So Far?

In Ray Bradbury’s “The Sound of Thunder,” the accidental killing of a butterfly changes history. I remember after I read it as a kid thinking that whatever I touched in nature might alter the future, and my sixth grade teacher reinforced that—saying that yes, every blade of grass we touch when we walk is forever changed and what follows from that change we can’t know. Continue reading “What Happens When Your Ripples Only Flow So Far?”

Recalculating the Best Laid Plans

plane motor“You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are? Anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles.” Now, before you go rolling your eyes at another post of mine that incorporates It’s a Wonderful Life in it, just give me a chance.

As my regular readers may know, I feel strongly about this film for many reasons— in fact, I’m pretty sure I could write a book on all that this movie speaks to me about life, and maybe someday I will.

But today I want to talk about how life plays out so differently from what we may plan.

I don’t know about you, but when I was young, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted my life to look like. So did George Bailey. In fact, his plan was similar to mine…steam-locomotive-whistle

“I know what I’m gonna do tomorrow and the next day and the next year and the year after that,” he told his then unbeknownst-to-him future wife, Mary. “I’m shaking the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world!”

When I was a year or two younger than the age George was when he uttered those lines, I was in college thinking about what market I would start my career in. My plan was to work in television or film production and go anywhere the work would take me. I distinctly remember driving through Nashville on a trip and thinking, “this seems like it could be a good place to start…”


But within months, the turn my life was about to take would make that thought unimaginable.

In a little over a year from thinking Nashville might be the place for me, my dad would be diagnosed with cancer and pass into life eternal.

While George’s world became holding down the fort of the Bailey Bros Building and Loan after his dad died, I had other, less tangible forts of my own to hold down.

And neither George nor I shook the dust and saw the world the way we planned.


So what did we do?

Truth is, depending on the day, the answer varies.

As life plays itself out, there is meaning to be made of the twists and turns of our best laid plans. But there is also frustration and even resentment that God is not following the directions on my turn-by-turn navigation.

I mean, come on—I had some great ideas! And, truthfully, the fact that God has better ideas is not always easily identifiable.

Where my itinerary had travel and adventure, God’s had responsibility and sacrifice. Mine still sounds way more fun, doesn’t it?

And there are many, many other twists and turns that continue to come my way, as there are for most of us. It seems like right when I get my new route together, I can hear God say “recalculating…”

gps 2

And his path is not necessarily a smooth one. Bumps, potholes, hairpin turns…where am I headed?

This certainly does not mean that I am merely on a path with none of my own choices. No—we are not God’s robots—but it does mean that I need to acknowledge that I am not in actual control. I can only be responsible for me and not my circumstances.

I must simply do my best and trust that the ultimate Navigator is leading me to the Destination I was meant for. Something I could not see with just my own vision.

George learned that his little town was far from “crummy,” and that the impact he had was deeper than he ever knew or could have planned for.

And here I am, at a place in my life that I never would have planned for myself—juggling a myriad of life changes and challenging circumstances—needing to remember that my GPS is divine, and that I simply need to trust and take the next best turn laid out for me.

George Bailey, I’ll Love You Till the Day I Die

I’m a bit of an It’s a Wonderful Life fan. (Like…it’s my very favorite-est!) I’ve already shared a bit about that. To me, the movie resonates deeply on a number of levels. But it’s Frabjous Friday time, so I won’t get into a long discourse on why this movie is so amazingly awesome.

What I will share here is a new joy that the movie is bringing me. See, I’ve always been an old movie buff, so it’s no shock that my relationship with IAWL began when I was just a kid (back in the day when the copyright had expired and they showed it approximately 20,498 times a season). But in this day and age, most people under 30 (or maybe even 40) are pretty much not interested in a black and white movie. (“It’s booooring.” Sigh.)

That’s why the fact that my kid is loving It’s a Wonderful Life is a huge joy to me. The torch has been passed. My kid is starting to “get” the depth that the movie has to offer, and I am delighted. As the years go on, I’m hoping his love for it grows, and that he’ll be able to share it with his child one day.

That’s all I’ll say on my beloved movie today. Except if you haven’t seen it in a while (or…ever?!?!?), you should make the time to do so. It will be time well spent. (And someday I’m going to watch it with the sole purpose of counting how many sayings from the movie have become a part of our family’s lexicon–I’m a little scared to find out. I know it will be a number deep into the double digits.)

Happy Frabjous Friday, folks. I hope you were all able to make some wonderful memories this Christmas season…after all, it IS a wonderful life!

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