by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

Do you believe this?

Usually on Christmas Eve, my family watches the movie, White Christmas, but this year we opted to change our tradition and watched Frank Capra’s legendary It’s a Wonderful Life. Honestly, it had been years since I had seen this inspiring movie.

The story focuses on the desperate and despondent George Bailey played by James Stewart. As you may recall, George mistakenly believes that those he loves will be better off if he were dead, and while contemplating suicide, he even asserts that it would be better for his friends and family if he had never been born.

Fortunately, George has a guardian angel who comes to his rescue and illustrates what the lives of his loved ones and his entire town would have been like if he had never been born. And it’s not good! It turns out that George made the lives of those in his town “wonderful,” and without him people he cared about would either be dead, ruined or miserable.

In one example that illustrated the connectedness of our lives, George saved his younger brother from drowning in childhood, which led to his brother saving the lives of hundreds during World War II. The angel shows George that if he had never been born, his brother would have drowned and hundreds of people would have been killed in the war because his brother would not have been there to save them.

As I think about the new year that is upon us, this movie has reminded me how united and conjoined our lives are to one another — that your life and mine are important and matter to those around us. And I am pondering how my life can indeed make a more positive difference to others during the year ahead.

Imagine the paradigm shift if everyone understood the impact of their actions and words. I cannot help but think that if we believed what we say and do really “matters,” we would destroy apathy and foster empathy and compassion, turning inaction into effective, healing acts.

The movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, beautifully demonstrates the importance of our lives and how we have the potential to make a great difference in the lives of everyone with whom we meet and interact.

Jesus taught the importance of each one of us in his parable of a hundred sheep. He asked, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he finds it?” And he continued, “And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” (Luke 15:4-6)

Truly each of us is precious in His sight — equally important, needed and necessary! Not one is expendable. By our very existence, we make a difference in the world. With every word we speak and every action we take, we impact those around us for better or for worse. Our opinions, beliefs and prayers affect those we embrace in our thoughts. Indeed, we each have the power to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

The life of George Bailey is an example of how we make a difference in the lives of everyone around us whether we believe we do or not. But imagine the possibilities when we understand that we do make a difference and that we want that difference to be good.

Therefore friends, if you take the words of Mahatma Gandhi to heart and resolve to “Be the difference you want to see in the world,” what a wonderful New Year this will be!