Friday, December 12, 2008

It's A Wonderful Life

I'm stepping a little out of my safety zone and doing something I rarely do: an article about myself. I am comfortable with fiction and short stories, because I call the shots about what I want reality to be. However, I am going to post about something personal, and I think it will be therapeutic for me. And I promise to post another short story in my next entry.

It’s a Wonderful Life

As is tradition in our home, we watched It’s a Wonderful Life on Thanksgiving. I’d like to share a short segment of that movie.

George Bailey: Just a minute - just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was - why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what's wrong with that? Why - here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You - you said - what'd you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken down that they... Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be.

To be Mr. Potter or George Bailey? These are the struggles that I wrestle in my heart as I lay in bed at night, and as I walk the street during the day. To most, the choice is clear. George Bailey is a noble, selfless man who continually makes the responsible choice to serve his fellow man, while Mr. Potter is a warped, frustrated old man who seeks his own way and his own purposes.

But allow me a moment to reveal my heart and express the struggle I suffer. For a moment I want to remove the immoral, greedy element from Mr. Potter and examine him as a practical business man. He is a business man of profound abilities, and uses his influence to advance his business interests. One might accurately describe him as calculating.

At my work, I am surrounded by Potters—men who are focused, driven, and calculating. They are the men who drive the business machine forward. The men who make decisions that aren’t influenced by compassion, but rather by necessity.

George Bailey, on the other hand, is a man who has embraced the passion of life and empathizes with the common human condition. He is a man who will continually take the high road, even at his own expense.

At my work, I could count on one hand the George Baileys. I should know, for I am one. I am continually criticized for my “weakness”—that is, my compassion. I’m often confronted by my peers for being too easy, too nice. “Don’t get me wrong,” they say. “You’re one heck of a nice guy, and I think a lot of you, but you are way too soft…” and you can probably finish the sentence for me.

Criticism is a unique gift. You can either dismiss it entirely, or you can embrace it and own it. Or, and this is the harder, better choice, you can examine it for truth. Am I too weak, too soft? Perhaps. Christ never called us to be weaklings, but to be men of valor who stand for truth.

Am I, on the other hand, willing to discard my faith or moral fiber in order to be more like the other cogs in the machine—like the ones who actually drive the machine forward? This struggle may not mean anything to you. You might not even understand what I’m expressing, but I examine my criticisms and extrapolate that which is beneficial. Am I too weak? Perhaps. But is that a weakness? Perhaps not. Perhaps the weakness the world sees is nothing more than compassion and lack of selfish ambition.

Well, I will struggle with these ideals for my life. I pray that I will never be the one who tries to buy off George Bailey because I’ve become a Potter. At one point in the movie, Potter realizes that George has beaten him in the game. In order to remove George from the competition, he deceitfully offers him the deal of a lifetime, and basically throws everything at him that he’s ever wanted. In a weak moment, George is tempted to take the offer. However, after a greasy handshake, George comes to his senses and flees temptation.

May God grant me the strength to hold to my principles, even if the world offers me the world in exchange.


dave said...

Interesting thoughts and well worth dwelling on for a bit. I'll have to think a bit before I really respond.

Leon Basin said...

It sure is!

Sarah said...

I think a lot of Christians struggle with this, but I think you have a handle on it. Just the fact that you recognize that you have a choice, the world or God, shows that you're choosing the right path.

If doing the right thing were easy, everyone would. You're doing great. Press on!

gzusfreek said...

Well, Travis, this was honest
-maybe even a little vunerable. And so, so refreshing. This post was marvelous.
I too share the some of the same struggles. I can't imagine though, the world of men. It's rough enough among the world of women.
Thank you for sharing and keep up the nonfiction!
And go on being the you God created!

gzusfreek said...

PS I always did say Texans and Coloradans were just two sides of the same coin - (but we get to live in God's country!) LOL JK

Travis said...

Leon, thank you for visiting my blog. I appreciate you taking time to say hello.

Sarah, your encouragement is not lost. I suspected that several others could articulate similar struggles.

GFreek, when you said you can't imagine what the struggle would be like in a world of men, I had to smile. I am completely surrounded by very strong willed type A personalities, who are in constant conflict with each other for domination. It's a constant high-speed wobble around these parts!

Now, as for God's country, I'll grant you that the Rocky Mountains hold a grandeur, BUT, the stark contrast of the Guadalupe Mountains are equally majestic. Every one should google the Guadalupes (while you're at it, add in Big Bend). Of course, the hill country in the spring...there's no place like it!

Thanks for you comments, all. It means a lot to me!

Alison Bryant said...

That's a challenging struggle. I can relate in a small one of my roles I struggle between being to hard and too "soft," but in that role it's better to be soft and I often lean the other direction. Anyway, all that to say it's tough.

Knowing you, my hunch is that you move the business side of things forward more than you (or others) realize. I also suspect that some of the Potters secretly wish they had the guts and strength to deal with people the way you do.
In your unique position, I think it's crucial that the people you influence see some of George provides a valuable example and will help equip them for some facets of their job responsibilities. To them and your coworkers, I think that type of influence will be remembered long past anything else.

Travis said...

Very eloquent, Alison. Thanks.

lynnrush said...

Press on, Brother.

Compassion is never a weakness. We need more of it in this world.

Amy Deardon said...

Will, I can never imagine you to give into cold calculation of people without mercy. We need justice as well as mercy, to be sure, but I don't think Potter's brand of handling people was just, either, only self-aggrandizing. We are all broken. It's painful to be around hard people, but sometimes your example DOES change things although it may take a long time. I know this for a fact; someone I'd worked with who only took, and took, finally started offering to help others (just a little, but consistently) after three years. No longer keep in touch with her, but I wonder sometimes if it stuck with her?

Travis said...

Thanks Lynn and Amy. Your encouragement is much appreciated, least I have an angel throw himself from a bridge in order to save my life!

Avily Jerome said...

Hey there!

That's a hard line to walk. To be like Christ in His compassion, without being domineered, to and to make sound business decisions without being a jerk.

The with this, as with everything, I believe is with balance.

I struggle with this not in a business setting but in personal relationships. I tend to be a keep-the-peace-at-the-expense-of-my-sanity type of person.

I learned this lesson the hard way a few years ago. I had a family member who is also a close friend that I spent a considerable amount of time with. The problem was that her child (who is my child's age) was a bully. A spoiled rotten brat, if I were to be brutally honest.

But we were in situations where I couldn't avoid her. And so my child was constantly being abused. I was trying to teach my child that it is not okay to hit/push/bite/kick/etc., while every couple of days he was receiving this treatment from the other child.

And, being completely non-confrontational, I didn't say anything, letting my frustration fester until one day I snapped, and said something really rude and hurtful.

Almost immediately, we patched things up, but long story short, I have tried to work toward a balance of honesty and love. There have been a number of situations since then in which I have been able to tell her honestly my thoughts. Most of the time she completely ignores me, but at least I have tried, and I have gotten the truth out there in love, before I snap. From there, I can feel justified in removing myself from the situation, since I have made my perspective clear.

Sorry- this was long enough to be an entire post... Oh well.

Julie Gillies said...

Toby Mac sings a song that says "I don't wanna gain the whole world...and lose my soul." Those words are imprinted in my heart.

May the Lord grant us ALL grace to stick to our standards!

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas.

Travis said...

Merry Christmas. And merry Christmas Bailey Savings and Loan!

Travis said...

And Avily, I'm glad you managed to patch things up, but I'll bet there was a new level of respect born from that conflict. Thanks for the comment!

sharilyn said...

hmmmm. a very vulnerable and honest post, travis. i cannot imagaine being a man in today's could be downright confusing. and then, toss in the factor of desiring to be a Godly man. whew! ... i think if you're continually seeking God's face, He will give you the right attitudes... i know that is MY desire for myself... "you will hear a voice that says, this is the way, walk in it..."

Travis said...

I suspected when I wrote this that there were many others who would identify with it. I think we all struggle the same basic problems: living in a fallen world!

Your encouragement means a lot to me. Thanks for taking time to do so.