George Bailey

We Americans are by and large good neighbors. Much of the time we are better than those we elect to represent us, at least in more recent years since the really big money has entered the game. Gazing at the national scene, the posturing and spinning are more often about appearing to be right rather than truly being of service. As a nation, it would seem that we are more often good from the bottom up. Perhaps it is more the system and not the people.

Then there are the holidays. Especially at this time of the year, you can’t pick up a paper or click on a media source without learning of good works and anonymous donations flowing to persons-in-need following the public disclosure of their plight. This is both a good and feel-good thing, but right now I am thinking about all of the George Baileys out there, male and female, who quietly, faithfully and with little or no recognition continue to do their duty serving others, day in and day out.

FYI, George Bailey is the kind and longsuffering protagonist in Frank Capra’s 1947 film, A Wonderful Life, who questions the value of his existence when things get tough. It’s a great holiday cornball of a movie and reflects the late director’s immigrant belief in the ability of the common man to triumph here in this land of opportunity. That’s still potentially doable, albeit more difficult in an America where the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” is much greater than it was when this film was first released, and communities are polarized over issues that should be no-brainers like gun control and a living minimum wage.

Still, the George Baileys are among us. They take care of our children in schools and community programs, and serve our parents in nursing homes. They clean and police our streets, nurse us in hospitals, grow our food, rescue our animals, advocate for our safety as watchful neighbors and, OK, in Delaware anyway, represent us in government…even when no one is videotaping, tweeting or even looking.

I would like to think that there is a little George Bailey in most of us. Compared to so many places in this world, a good portion of Americans have wonderful lives. We just need to keep working until that portion becomes a majority. In the meantime, we can try to remember to catch people when they are doing something right, then pat them on the shoulder and say, “Well done.” It’s what George would do, what good neighbors do…all year long.

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