Take Comfort in the Classics This Christmas

Per tradition, my family pulled out our stash of Christmas movies last night. For the next couple days, we’ll embark on a marathon of classics like “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “A Christmas Story” and, of course, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Watching them has taken on newfound importance this year, what with the significantly sparser display of presents under the tree and decorations on the walls. So have the meanings embedded in the movies themselves.

Take “It’s a Wonderful Life” for example (I’ll refresh your memory a bit in case you haven’t seen it in awhile—or at all). Set in the Great Depression, the movie is about George Bailey, a kind-hearted man who has never been able to escape his small hometown because he keeps putting other people’s needs before his own. He eventually takes over his dad’s bank—the Bailey Savings & Loan—and starts trying to fix up the slums in his town, ensuring that everyone can afford a house.

When some money is misplaced on Christmas Eve, George is unfairly blamed and tries to commit suicide, thinking everyone would be better off if he were dead. To make a long story short, an angel comes along and shows George how many lives he has touched. George realizes that the world and his family need him and decides to live—and in the tearjerker of an ending, all his friends and neighbors come together to give him enough money to cover the loss.

Yes, it’s sappy and unrealistic in a lot of ways, but it’s also poignant.

At one point, there’s a run on the Savings & Loan in which panicked customers desperately try to retrieve their money (which of course isn’t actually in the bank—but has been loaned out to finance houses, business, etc.). In turn, this leads to further doubt about the bank’s solvency.

That scene seems all too familiar in light of the recent collapse of the real estate market and major banks—not to mention a slew of other businesses. Like in the movie, people today fear for our future. It’s hard stay upbeat when we’re losing our homes and our jobs, and struggling to put food on the table and gifts under the tree. Yet it’s all too easy to feel lost—to succumb to our perceived helplessness.

But, as George Bailey learns in the end, happiness isn’t about money or possessions—it’s about the simple things. You can see the same theme repeated in just about any popular holiday film—finding the beauty in a homely little tree in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or the power of kindness in “A Christmas Carol” or acceptance in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The holidays aren’t about things; they’re about feelings, ideas and, most importantly, people (or deer, in the case of “Rudolph”).

Of course, as all know, real life is no movie. There’s no guaranteed happy ending. Things aren’t always black and white. Characters on a screen don’t feel sadness or hunger like we do in real life. But the beauty of real life is that we don’t have to follow a script. Unlike on TV, we can write our own ending.

So if things seem particularly bleak this Christmas (or Hanukkah, or whichever holiday you and yours celebrate), vow to make next year a happier one. Give us a call or send us a message here at DebtStoppers. We’ll help you get back on your feet. In the meantime, enjoy your holidays and look forward to a bright and happy New Year.

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