Chances are you've seen the movie It's A Wonderful Life. It touches most of us, not because it's a true story but because it contains a monumental truth: Each of us, whoever we may be, has a part to play--and each of us, however unimportant we may feel, can make an impact.
In the movie, young George Bailey rescues his brother from drowning. Kid brother Harry goes on to save dozens of his comrades in arms during World War II. In fact, many of George's actions ripple out to his family, community, and the larger world. (We can also see how his apathy would have spelled disaster for those same people.)
A beautiful story and I always cry, you might think, but it's only a movie. Things like that don't really happen. But they do! As you may know if you've read my earlier posts, I'm a big believer in the power of each person.
Perhaps you are familiar with a book called The Butterfly Effect. It tells the true story of a Civil War colonel. Overmatched dramatically by the Confederate Army early in the Battle of Gettysburg, he commanded his small band of soldiers to attack. This act of pure bravado turned back the southern forces. Some historians say that pivotal battle helped clinch a Northern victory.
What if the South had won? Many scholars believe the U.S. would have divided into small nations. Think of how different our lives might be! The course of history would be completely different .
Need a more recent example? Perhaps you have heard of Michael "Big Mike" Oher, whose life story, chronicled in The Blind Side and the film based on it, typifies the expression "Truth is stranger than fiction." One of 12 children born to a criminal and a crack addict, Oher hardly had it easy. But the kindness of people who believed in him, housed him, cared for him and saw to his education helped him into a promising career in professional football. If not for this happy chain of events, it's unlikely Big Mike would have the success he does today.
Chances are, a kind teacher or family member encouraged you to believe in yourself. Maybe someone gave you a second (or third) chance you did not really deserve. Maybe you in turn have done the same for someone else.
You may not have the power to save Bedford Falls--but you have all kinds of power you might never have considered. A gift to your local food bank, for instance, could help a child focus on her schoolwork--which might allow her to further her education and one day find the answer to a problem that has plagued society. All because someone cared enough to help.
As angel Clarence observes near the end of It's A Wonderful Life, each life touches so many others. Whose lives, and how many, might your actions touch?