– An Interview with George Bailey of “It’s a Wonderful Life”

This article is written to provide some encouragement for families who have adopted orphans and found their lives changing in unexpected ways. Sometimes our plans get changed as we live life! Our idyllic family dreams are impacted by an adopted child with unexpected needs, developmental delays, and bonding issues. I thought of George Bailey from the classic 40’s movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” and what he might have to say to adoptive families. This is a fanciful “interview with George Bailey”!…

INTERVIEWER: I caught up with George a couple weeks ago at his office on the main street in scenic Bedford Falls. When I arrived, he greeted me warmly and waved me into his office with his long hand wagging at the end of his wrist and an invitation to take a seat. We jumped right into our interview….

INTERVIEWER: How long have you been at the Bailey Building and Loan now?

GEORGE: “Way longer than I had planned!”

(He leaned back in his wooden swivel-chair and put his feet up on the desk and smiled with raised eyebrows.)

INTERVIEWER: How did that happen?

GEORGE: “That’s a long story.”

INTERVIEWER: I remember you speak in the movie a couple times about your dreams to travel the world and build things.

(George jumped to his feet, stretched out his neck and enthusiastically recited the lines with his arms beating the air.)

GEORGE: “I’m going to see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Coliseum. I know what I’m going to do tomorrow and next week and next year. I’m going to build things. I’m gonna build air fields… skyscrapers… bridges a mile long…Oh, yaw, …and lasso the moon for Mary, too!”

(We laughed together as he sat back in his chair.)

INTERVIEWER: So, how did you come to change your dreams?

GEORGE: “Well, that’s just the thing. I didn’t set down and make up my mind that I didn’t want to do those things. I really believed I’d be happy and fulfilled if I could travel and build things.”

INTERVIEWER: So how is it that after all these years you are still at the Building and Loan?

GEORGE: “Oh, gosh, I guess a lot of little choices along the way.”

(His gaze drifted away and he seemed to focus outside the window on a point far away.)

INTERVIEWER: There certainly were a number of times in the movie where you had a choice. You didn’t have to take over the Building and Loan when your father passed away – that delayed your plans for school. And your brother had agreed to take your place at the Building and Loan when he graduated – you let him take the other job with his father-in-law’s company as a researcher. And then, when there was a panic among the account holders at the Building and Loan, you took your own honeymoon money and paid it out to the people to keep the Building and Loan open. George, why did you do these things? What caused you to forsake your own dreams?

GEORGE: “Well, I never did give up my dream, but other things that came up were more important than what I wanted!”

INTERVIEWER: What was more important than your dreams?

(I leaned forward to hear his explanation. As he spoke, he began getting worked up about the situation he was retelling.)

GEORGE: “Well, for one thing, old Mr. Potter had a lot of this town under his thumb and he was taking advantage of honest, hardworking people. If he had his way, he’d own everything in town and everyone would serve him.  (George was on his feet by now.) As for my brother, I just couldn’t deny my own kin the opportunity that opened up for him.”

INTERVIEWER: You seem pretty passionate about justice for the oppressed and doing the right thing!

GEORGE: “Well, I didn’t set out on no mission.  (He leaned across the desk in a seeming effort to make his point.) These things just came up and one thing lead to another and here I am, still running the Building and Loan.”

(George straightened up and his scowl was replaced by whimsical look that came across his face.)

INTERVIEWER: It seems that every time you were faced with a choice in the movie, something caused you to deny your own dream to help someone else. So, how did it turn out for you?

GEORGE: (He turned and put his chin in his hand, thinking for a moment…) “Well…okay! (He lifted his head and his eyebrows were up again.) After I met Clarence and he showed me what could have happened, why, I saw things differently. It seems to me that all the little choices I had made all added up to a wonderful life after all!”

INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else that you’d like to say to the families?

GEORGE: “Well, you know I’m no preacher. All I can say is that I’m a pretty happy man the way things turned out. I may never get to do much traveling or build any bridges like I had planned. But I’m building something here in Bedford Falls that has turned out to be very dear to me: a family and a community of people I care about.”

INTERVIEWER: Thanks for your thoughts, George! I’ll see you again next year around Christmas time!

David Avilla – May 25, 2008

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