Something very unusual happened to me today. VERY unusual. It was a case of life imitating art. It’s December, and what happened fit the Christmas season. Double bonus.
One of my favorite Christmas movies is It’s a Wonderful Life. My wife and I watch it every Christmas season. We’ve seen it so many times that recently we started putting it on while we wrap presents after the kids are nestled all snug in their beds with visions of sugar plumbs dancing in their heads. It makes for good background noise.
Most people are familiar with the storyline, so I won’t rehash it here. The movie starts getting really good when George Bailey’s Uncle Billy heads off from the Building and Loan to make his routine bank deposit. But this time he has an encounter with the Bailey family nemesis Mr. Potter. Poor Uncle Billy absentmindedly leaves the B&L money with Potter, who soon discovers the mistake. At this point, we find out that Mr. Potter is not just a cold-hearted businessman, but a dishonest opportunist as well. He keeps quiet about the money, and when George comes crawling to the only man in town who can rescue him from losing the dough, Mr. Potter throws him out and calls the police on George. It seems idyllic Bedford Falls will soon become “Pottersville”, a veritable den of robbers.
Today I took my son to the doctor. He’s fine. Just a cold. As we drove up the driveway back home, I noticed an envelope in the street just in front of my house. So after parking, I walked over to pick up the trash. But the envelope was stuffed. And full of money and endorsed checks! Who ever thinks this will happen to him? It’s the kind of thing that only happens in the movies. Everyone needs more money during Christmas season. What would you do?
I’ve made this story longer than it really needs to be. I knew instantly who the envelope belonged to–based on the checks. So I walked over to my friend’s house and returned the money. Turns out the family had started out on the way to the bank to make the deposit, but had misplaced the envelope. For an hour they ransacked their home searching in vain for it. When they came to the door, I saw panic melt into relief. We talked about where I found it, and it’s still a mystery how it got from their driveway to the street in front of my house. Perhaps the wind. But the envelope was pretty heavy. Guess we’ll never know. But it doesn’t matter. All’s well in Bedford Falls again.
It was a good feeling to play the Good Samaritan today. Lots of “Praise the Lord”s later, along with a few “thank you”s and “your welcome”s, I entered my own home announcing to my wife: “Good news, I’m not Mister Potter!”
Most of us think we have more George Bailey than Mr. Potter in us. The truth is that God sustains us by his grace and keeps us from falling into temptation. Even though I’m a pastor, I could be Mr. Potter any day of the week. But thankfully, today I’m not Mr. Potter!
(Maybe I’m not the only one who’s had a surreal life-imitating-art experience. Let me know your story if you’ve got one.)