Did You Ever Have A George Bailey Moment?

Even though spring is blooming, I recently had a conversation with an It’s A Wonderful Life reference that I just had to share.

The owner of the company who installed our new roof (more on that in another post) was a great guy and he was very easy to talk to.  As such, after the job was completed, he came to our house to collect the final payment, and Mrs. Beagle, Bob (the roofer) and I talked about a few different things outside of the questions we had about the roof.

I can’t remember the specific context, but he mentioned that he lives a pretty quiet life in that he doesn’t smoke or drink.  He then paused, and said that this wasn’t always the case, that he is in fact a recovering alcoholic.  I asked how long he was in recovery and he said that it’s been 19 years.  I was very impressed and let him know as such, and he then told us something that made me really stop and think.

He told us about his ‘George Bailey’ moment.  I’m sure most know, but just in case, George Bailey is the main character of the Christmas themed movie It’s A Wonderful Life.  In the movie, things go wrong and he says out loud that he wishes he had never been born, and then gets to see his wish come true.  A guardian angel takes him to a world in which he’d never been born, and he gets to see how things changed for many of the people (his wife, friends, family) whose life wouldn’t have been touched had he not been born.

Bob’s story obviously wasn’t centered about what would have happened had he not been born, but instead about how things likely would have turned out had he not stopped drinking. He told that during his ‘really, really wild days’ (his words), he had a best friend who was there with him at every turn.  They drank together, partied together, got out of had together, got in a lot of trouble together, and lost control of themselves together.

At a certain point, Bob realized that he couldn’t do that.  He knew he was out of control so he quit drinking.

His friend didn’t.

As is often the case when substance abuse is the driver of a relationship, they drifted apart as Bob went down a path of sobriety and his friend didn’t.  I didn’t get into the details of the story (it was only a few minute conversation), but I got the sense that Bob really cared about his friend, and I would bet that he probably tried to pull his friend out of the path of destruction that Bob had avoided, but his friend didn’t.

Nineteen years later, and Bob knows that his friend is homeless.  He sweeps a parking lot at a bar/restaurant for a few hours a day and gets paid $10 for doing so.  He lives in a field behind a local KMart.  Bob said he saw him walking down the road a couple of years ago. He stopped and his former best friend barely recognized him.  He could not speak complete sentences.  He refused any help Bob tried to give him.

I heard this story and I said, “Wow, that must have been heartbreaking.”  You could tell by the look on his face before Bob even answered that it was.  But Bob pointed out that it also gave him an opportunity to see what his life would have become had he not made the decision to take control of his alcoholism.  Now, he’s got a family, a successful business, he’s a happy, upbeat, outgoing guy and I have to believe that as hard as it is to have seen his former buddy in the shape he was in, seeing that continues to reinforce his recovery, and gives him the strength to continue his recovery.

How many times have you had a George Bailey moment?  Maybe where you saw an ex and realized that breaking up was painful at the time but one of the best things that ever happened?  Or looked at something you didn’t buy and realized that as much as you wanted it at the time, it was better that you didn’t buy it?  Or have you had it work the other way around?

Readers, what’s your George Bailey moment?