In many respects, George Bailey spent the entirety of his wonderful life working on some of the most fundamental and lasting aspects of the building and loan business. Truth be told, most of his best construction efforts had very little to do with brick, mortar and commerce.
George’s preferred building materials were hearts, minds and dreams.
As his father, Peter Bailey, had so astutely observed, George had been “born old”. This trait had left him extraordinarily well equipped in terms of temperament and wisdom to steward others through the challenges they faced in life.
This was a blessing that both augmented and complimented George’s penchant for dreaming really big.
His unbridled enthusiasm for life and its limitless possibilities was contagious, spreading though out and infecting all those within his orbit. That old soul, “Moss-back George” exuded an innate goodness. It was that tug born of love that drew those in need toward him.
Unfortunately, his myriad aspirations came in direct conflict with the overwhelming and unending needs of the greater good. While he was certain that his designs were simply too grand to fit within the city limits of Bedford Falls, he never once considered how he was the architect of the future for so many.
Building airfields, 100 story skyscrapers, mile long bridges and other impermanent monuments had consumed George Bailey’s imagination. But being intent on fleeing his “crummy little town”, George scarcely recognized the magnitude and gravity of his accomplishments right there at home.
For the most part, George responded to the interruptions, disappointments and set backs in his life with an uncommon level of maturity and wisdom. Yet, just as anyone with such a large responsibility for the well-being of so many might well have reacted, George grew impatient. He tired of waiting for his turn. Indulged in some self-pity. Then lashed out at the ones he loved.
With the help of Clarence, he was able to step back and recognize that he was in fact “the” building and loan.
Perhaps a little divine intervention is needed when you become an instrument of selfless service. Always on loan to others, and asking for nothing in return, George couldn’t see the big picture. Though he did the heavy lifting for an entire community, he unknowingly engaged in the single most important civil engineering project; building up others.
George Bailey’s legacy is only the stuff of Hollywood legend.
Or is it?
Is the place we all call “home” that far removed from Bedford Falls?
Aren’t there those around all of us that have fallen through the cracks, sunk into hard times and might be going under?
Do you know a friend that feels so devastated by some personal loss or failing that they are capable of making an even greater mistake?
How many of you know of someone who just needs their opportunity to shine?
Like George, to a certain extent we are all involved in the building and loan business.
We just happen to operate from different branch offices.
Like George, we can choose to pursue life with a vengeance, creating a foundation of enthusiasm, possibility and positive energy for others to build upon.
By subordinating our desires to help underwrite the needs of others, we can create a truly lasting community development.
By loaning our “selves” out in service for the benefit of others, that single selfless act will inspire a multitude of others to aspire to do the same. All of which leads to the creation of even more “building and loans”.
By helping those in Bedford Falls to become what they were intended to be, George became what he was intended to become.
The “richest man in town.”
His time and talents were the treasures that funded the aspirations and dreams of others. His love was the coin of the realm. A currency he freely loaned to all.
And the wonderful lives he came to know?
He accumulated shares in their building.
We too can share that same rich appellation.
But only if we can learn to embrace an older soul. Become a trusted and loving steward for those that have lost their way. Set aside the brick, mortar and commerce for a bit.
And channel our inner George.