Monday, July 14, 2008

It's a Wonderful Life

I've recently watched the classic film It's a Wonderful Life. I've been meaning to watch it for ages because I've heard so much about it but until yesterday I had never seen it.

For those of you fellow Philistines out there I won't ruin the plot (well not too much). It's an unapologetically sentimental film but I don't see that as a bad thing personally. The under-pinning philosophy of the film is actually really serious and incredibly real - that each of us has an impact on many many lives. Every time we interact with another human being, we potentially have an impact on that person.

All of us, I'm sure can remember dozens of key moments in our lives when we've been affected by another person - for good and for ill.

All people - certainly all adults - are responsible for there own actions (to a greater or lesser extend but that's for another time perhaps). All of us need to take responsibility for ourselves and what we do. However we cannot take responsibility for the consequences of our actions - not entirely - because it is impossible to know what the knock-on effects will be. That's in many ways the message of the film.

Some encounters we have with people are very minor - some very major but it's not always possible to tell the difference.

I think all, each of us can hope for - and indeed should aim for - is that in each and every situation we find ourselves, we seek to have a positive impact and not a negative one on the lives of the people around us. The English actor Paul Eddington wanted his epitaph to read "He did very little harm" and he made the very astute observation that this is not a small ambition and it is in fact difficult to do little harm. I do, however think we should aim higher. You never know how big an impact a small thing can have.

The kind people who carried me through the dark times, the teachers who challenged and inspired me, the true friends who have shared the highs and lows. All of these and countless more make me what I am. Do something positive for someone you meet and you never know how big the consequences may be.

A wonderful life may indeed be one that we wouldn't necessarily expect.