HomeAbout the AuthorOther writingsShare your storyAppearancesVets Writing Workshops

   Cindy McDermott, Author


For the last ten years, hubby and I have watched the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a Christmas tradition for us. It’s inspirational, a wonderful representation of the true spirit of the holiday season. 

The hero George Bailey repeatedly tangles with the ruthless slumlord Mr. Potter. At the Bailey Building and Loan, George offers opportunities to the lower income citizens of Bedford Falls to purchase their first home. Throughout his life, George continually sacrifices so others realize their dreams, as his visions of exploring the world are put on hold. (Click here for the rest of the story.)

When George finds himself in a desperate situation, contemplating suicide, Angel Second Class Clarence Odbody shows George that no man is a failure who has friends, the true measure of success in life. Even though we’ve seen the movie many times, I’m exceptionally emotional, pondering the spiritual message of this timeless classic. The movie simply grounds both of us in realizing we are so incredibly blessed and do have a wonderful life. 

The movie also demonstrates the cold-heartedness of Mr. Potter, who had no qualms in foreclosing a loan, putting a family out of their home or forcing them to live in squalor. It was all about the numbers to him. Unfortunately, it reminds me of some business leaders of today, driven by delivering to the bottom line, no matter how they get there, to feed insatiable appetites for returns. They’ve lost the guiding principle of ensuring a safe and encouraging workplace for their employees and helping their communities. They chase the almighty dollar, a bottom line report, that will spotlight them as the darling of Wall Street, admired by the money analysts and the financial media. Their actions demonstrate they are driven by the mantra, “Greed is Good.”

George Bailey positively touched the lives of hundreds of people in Bedford Falls by giving hope for a better future, not only for them, but for their children, and the community overall, by helping them achieve the dream of home ownership. 

I think about others I have known who have given of themselves in a selfless manner to help others. My friend HC Palmer comes to mind, who has mentored many military vets, struggling with the invisible wounds they will carry for the rest of their lives. I think of my daughter-in-law Tina McDermott who has lobbied legislative leaders, educating them about the benefits of medical cannabis for those suffering from debilitating diseases. I think about my board members of the Moral Injury Association of America, especially Dr. George Dent from the VA. He counsels military veterans, guiding them through a difficult life journey, many times threatened by self-harm, most notably suicide. 

Each one of these people has personally touched people in great need. They understand that helping others is actually helping themselves. It’s more than just writing a check, coaching your kid’s baseball team, running a race or saying thank you for your service to a vet. We need volunteers and helpers who are willing to have a personal relationship with those in need, especially our inner city children, homeless and rural poor, whose outlook is bleak. 

In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey notes people at the lower end of the income stream, comprise the largest segment of the population, do most of the living in a community and deserve to have a try at the remarkable American Dream. But not everyone has an equal shot at living it. It takes each one of us pitching in and developing a personal touch or mentoring relationship with someone who needs a hand up.

Isn’t now the time to help others realize that their life matters, too? Can you give outreach to those in need? Can you be that Angel Second Class to others by offering personal support? Writing checks is certainly important but having the opportunity to guide and assist others can have a rippled effect on many, reaching across generations. Now’s the time for you to become George Bailey and extend your wonderful life to others in your community.