Editorial | It's a wonderful life

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. (Chaplain) David Dersch
  • HQ RIO

In the classic 1946 Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart (who by the way flew 20 combat bombing missions in World War II, earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses, rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve, and was the Reserve Commander of Dobbins Air Reserve Base) plays George Bailey, a boy with big dreams of leaving his small town and making a name for himself.

However, due to circumstances beyond his control and sacrifices he makes to help others, he never leaves town. Instead of traveling the world, he takes over the family business after his father dies unexpectedly, marries, has four children, and supports the war effort at home while his younger brother goes to battle and earns the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

George’s dreams are frustrated. On a particularly bad day he faces a series of calamities that lead him to believe the only way out is to jump off a bridge. Events on that day seem to conspire to steal his hope and drive him to an action that would have a dreadful impact on his family and community.

In the midst of his despair, Clarence, an angel trying to earn his wings, is sent to George on the bridge.  Those who have seen the movie know how Clarence goes about saving him.  For those who haven’t, I won’t spoil it.  You’ll have to watch it.

My point in re-telling this story is simple: September is National Suicide Prevention Month and “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a movie about suicide prevention.  At a critical point in the movie George’s family prays for him, and God sends Clarence the angel to the rescue.

You may be reading this right now and thinking, “I’m having trouble, my life is not so wonderful. I’ve been thinking about ending it all, and I don’t see any angels around me!”  Wait just a minute—this article is pointing you to your angel.  Pick up the phone and call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).    You’ll find an angel on the other end who will listen to you and offer you hope!  Do it now.  That angel is there for you 24/7!

While praying for folks is good, we should also consider how we can answer someone’s cry for help. During this month, and every month, if you notice someone is having a particularly bad day, be their angel. If you know of someone who is engaging in risky behaviors, struggling with finances, legal problems, or broken relationships, be a good Wingman and encourage them in some small way.

Unlike the movie, God probably won’t send an angel to prevent those around us from hurting themselves.  But, if someone around you thinks things are hopeless, let your alarm bells go off, be their Clarence and give them some hope. Don’t leave them until you know they’ll be OK.