It's a Wonderful Life is my all-time favorite movie and, lately, I have been able to connect so many of the themes to my own life.
I am yet to rescue any kid from drowning, which would let him grow-up to become a war hero...the manager at my after-school job at Barnes and Noble never almost accidentally poisoned a child, so I never got to interfere and stop it...and I never gave my Italian immigrant friend a new house.
However, after going-through what I have this past year, I get it.
Mr. Potter is a very fancy man. He has his own driver. When Clarence first sees him, he thinks he's a king! People are willing to work for him because he's rich and powerful and they need jobs...(not because they like him or because he's a good boss.)
The movie ends with Mr. Potter having millions and George Bailey needing $8,000 in order to save the Building and Loan.
George Bailey wins.
Mr. Potter might have a ton of money, and people STILL might still work for him because they need to eat, but George Bailey is the one who wins because he has a community of friends who want to help him.
I've had my own community of friends helping me this year...my Bedford Falls spans pretty far...several different states, a couple of different countries and includes people from all different stages of my life...and not just my friends...but friends of friends of friends...a train conductor who was worried about me when he hadn't seen me on the train after I lost my job, and told me I had always been one of the most pleasant passengers...this lady I sat next to at a show in Washington DC who told me everything was going to be okay...I've had people I hardly know send me links to jobs (including somebody I met three years ago at a work function and have not said a word to since, but, thank you Facebook, has known about my trials) and the wife of a young man I volunteer with (I've only met her twice!) I started going to a weekly class which has helped me so much...it's just the most open and supportive environment. You tell a story about your week...and people cheer. (Does it get any better than that?)
And, since I have interviewed at, roughly, 80% of the offices in New York City, I have met a lot of people...and...most of them? Completely lovely people who were nothing but kind and gracious and encouraging. I have gotten some of the kindest rejection letters ever written. I actually would like to put them into a scrapbook. It's wonderful of them to have taken the few minutes to tell me, "We couldn't hire you, Diana, but it's NOT you! YOU are fantastic (and I did get that word several times.) We just could only hire one person out of a sea of qualified ones." Meeting them has made me realize how many terrific offices and bosses and coworkers there are out there, and that I completely deserve to find it for myself.
If everything happens for a reason, I think I know the reason all of this happened (and I wish I had realized it on some of my worse days.) A lot of people care about me...they wouldn't have bothered if they didn't...and just like Clarence wrote in his copy of Tom Sawyer, "No man is a failure who has friends."
I've known real-life Mr. Potters...and it's felt like they had it all...power and wealth and fame and the loyalty of otherwise good people...and I've struggled with, "Why are people who aren't nice have so much?" But they really don't have anything at all...they don't have their Bedford falls community.
Manny the Train Conductor NEVER would have cared about Mr. Potter.
As lonely and isolating and sad as a period of unemployment can be, I have never, for a second, been alone.
I get that now. And I am grateful.