It’s a Wonderful Life and Veteran Suicide — We Need More Clarence’s
It’s that terrible/joyful holiday period when we push aside our pains and disappointments to join with the joy of the season and imagine a coming year full of wonders and possibilities.
Of those pains here in America, none is greater than that of the specter of suicide, especially those among our military veterans — now averaging 44 per day. 44 per day!!!
Can we ever hope for a time when those numbers abate, and the tragedies recede? Yes, if we just take lessons from the much-beloved movie classic, It’s a Wonderful Life and bring them into practice in our own lives. Let me draw from that story.
Its protagonist, George Bailey (as played by James Stewart) has given up on his personal dreams by taking on the burden of being the owner of the Bedford Falls Savings & Loan willed him by his father. All’s relatively well until, through a cruel twist of fate, on Christmas eve he finds himself at the edge of bankruptcy and personal ruin.
It’s just too much to take. His answer, his way out, he determines is to commit suicide so that his $15,000 insurance policy would cover the losses.
Heaven sends an unlikely rescuer, Clarence Odbody (an Angel Second Class who over the past 200 years has yet to do enough good to earn his wings). His assignment: to bring George, who in his despair wishes that he had never been born, to a better understanding of his worth to value the life he has lived and lead him away from this final act of self-harm.
“What value? George would argue, unaware that with no George Bailey in existence there would not have been a war-hero aviator brother downing a Japanese Kamikaze to save a transport ship full of soldiers, no one to rescue a pharmacist from a 20-year sentence for manslaughter by incorrectly filling a prescription and causing a child to die, no one with the moral fiber to balance the greed of banker Harry Potter, and…well…. you get the idea.
Finally aware, George returns home to face his fate head on, but this time full of gratitude, only to find that his friends and family have rallied to more than meet the deficit and save him from prison. Oh yes, and helping Clarence earn his wings.