MOVIE: It’s a Wonderful Life / A Simple Twist of Fate – A Better Definition of Prosperity
by Randall Allen Dunn
For the past three years, God has started my year by speaking a single word to me. Something to focus on for the coming year. I didn’t know what each word would mean until the year was well under way.
The first word I received in 2011 was “peace”. That year I dealt with a number of stressful situations. Through it all, I learned to pray for peace in my soul and maintain it, no matter what was happening around me.
The word for 2012 was “prestige”. I learned that the real meaning of this word is not always positive. It has to do with a perceived image of someone or something, which is often untrue. That year brought me opportunities that enhanced my image among people. But in the end, I discovered that no matter what people perceived me to be, it was my true character – good or bad – that showed through in the end.
The word for 2013 was “prosperity”. A word like that would excite anyone, especially in a struggling economy.
Of course, God doesn’t view prosperity the same way we do, any more than he defines peace or prestige like we would. This past year, I lost more than ever. I lost connection with some family and friends. I lost a house and a job. I lost the respect and trust of some family and friends and my own family suffered greatly. It was the most difficult year my family ever experienced.
At the end of it all, we continued with our lives. Moving forward as best we could, doing what we needed to do, while supporting and loving one another.
Still, when you’ve been badly hurt – by broken relationships, disappointments and hardships – you get scars. And those scars still hurt and discourage you, even after the beating finally stops.
The hardest part is maintaining hope. Trusting that God has something good planned for our future, despite the hardships we suffered. I never truly lost faith in God’s ability or desire to lead and bless us. To provide for our immediate needs and lead us into a bright future. But the waiting makes me tired.
For about twenty years, fellow writers and readers have told me I should be published, while most agents and editors disagree. It’s frustrating to know you have something valuable to offer, for which you can find no outlet. My dream to write isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, except that it’s what I do best so I want to make my income from it. To help us get ahead and be successful. To end the ongoing struggles with career, family time and tackling debt.
After a certain number of failures, it’s hard to keep from feeling like the failure is me. I know that’s not true, of course. But I’m so tired of the waiting …
Ken, a friend at church, saw I was down and asked me what’s happening. I told him, in general, how our family just needed to see things move forward in the coming year. He encouraged me, telling me he had a single word for me: success. He said it’s there for me, and that he views me as successful.
The other night, Nicki and I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life”, a movie that speaks to me every year. My own life seems so similar to that of George Bailey, always working hard and encouraging others to see them succeed, while trailing far behind them in life. Struggling with bills and missed opportunities, while he and his resourceful wife maintain their family as best they can.
This year it spoke to me about success. At church, Ken told me to remember there are lots of people who love and support me. At the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, after showing George how valuable his life is to those around him, the angel Clarence gives George a book with an inscription: “Remember: No man is a failure who has friends.”
A good reminder. One that’s easy for me to forget. In spite of all the hardships I faced this past year, I was blessed to discover who my real family and friends are.
Later that week, Nicki and I watched “A Simple Twist of Fate”, in which Michael McCann, a lonely, embittered man, finds a toddler on his doorstep and raises her as his own daughter. Only to have her birth father, John Newland, engage in a legal battle to reclaim her, once she reaches adolescence. As a young politician, Newland wanted to avoid the scandal of his affair, but now he insists that his wealth can provide young Mathilda a better home and future.
Michael sees it differently. He tells Newland, “When you turn a gift away from your door, it goes to the one who takes it in.”
Watching this emotional story reminded me of how much I love my wife and kids. How blessed I am to have a family of loving, clever, creative people, who make everything we do fun. A while ago, another friend, Jim, asked me how many kids I have now. When I told him we have two, he said, “Well, that’s prosperity.”
I never really thought of it that way. I should have.
There are things I wish I had in life. Things I wish I had accomplished. But focusing on what I don’t have makes me view myself as a “have-not”. Someone who doesn’t have all the nice things in life that other people do. Such people tend to dwell on that fact, envying other people’s possessions and success in life. Instead of appreciating what they themselves have.
We would all like to have a little more. More time. More vacations. More money. More recognition.
But if we never take time to appreciate and enjoy what we already have, it does us no good to gain more of it. Having more “things” often distracts us from recognizing our true wealth. Family and friends. Wisdom and good character. Love and loyalty. Hope and faith.
Being grateful for these simple things in our lives keep me from drifting off into greed, envy, anger and despair. Instead, focusing on my wonderful family and friends, my faith and my character, and the eternal hope in my heart, I can say to myself what Harry Bailey said, upon seeing the outpouring of love and support from George’s community: “A toast, to my big brother, George: the richest man in town.”
How do you define true prosperity?