Like a lot of you, I watched It’s a Wonderful Life over the holiday break. I probably watch it every year and each time I am amazed at how relevant the message is after 75 years. 3/4 of a century later, we are still battling to save our communities from the perils of greed. Back then, it was Mr. Potter, the evil old banker who couldn’t have enough. Any chance he had to screw someone over, was seen as an opportunity for him. If someone had something, it meant he didn’t have enough. Potter wanted control, Potter wanted it all. And he would have had it if it weren’t for that dastardly George Bailey!
George Bailey was the only thing standing in the way of Potter having control of Bedford Falls. George believed in community, he believed in the people. He was convinced that Bedford Falls was worth fighting for and that it Potter had his way, something special would be lost.
We are still living in this story today. Still, the George Baileys of every community fight off the Potters to try and protect the town. Still, greed runs rampant and some people can never have enough. The only thing that is hard to relate to, is having a locally owned bank.
The names have changed, but the story is the same. Actually, the story is worse, because back then, Mr. Potter was the only evil bastard trying to take over the town. Today, there are thousands of large multi-national corporations that want what your town has. Kroger wants the food sales your local grocer is keeping from them. Home Depot wants the home improvement sales your local hardware store is keeping from them. Bank of America wants the loans your local bank is keeping from them. Starbucks want the coffee sales your local coffee shop is keeping from them. All of these chains want what your community has, they want the money you haven’t given them yet.
So you and a couple of passionate people are the George Baileys of your community. Fighting to protect what Potter hasn’t already taken. You understand that if you don’t do your part, your town will become Pottersville from the “Bailey was never born” scenario. You understand what the cost of letting Potter win. Potter doesn’t care about your community, he cares about his money. Wal-Mart doesn’t care about your community, Dollar General doesn’t give a damn about what happens to local families. Like Potter, they are here for your money and whatever happens after they get it, is not their problem.
You George Bailey’s of the world know the high cost of letting Potter win. You know what town will look like once local business disappears. You may have already lived in Pottersville or have visited it. You know once greed wins, no one will care anymore. You saw how apathy took hold of Bedford Falls without this one man fighting back. You fundamentally understand what is at stake and how your town will irrevocably change if no one stops the slide.
You are up against forces far greater than evil ol’ Mr. Potter, because now he has some council members on his side and some economic development officials that believe his way is best. In many cases, you are fighting against your own government because they have bought into the idea that all investment is good investment, but you know better. You know why supporting your community businesses matter.
It has been a terrible year for small business and you Bailey’s are up against the ropes, but don’t give up. You know why small business matters so much, and why local ownership is critical. You know the cost of letting greed destroy your community and why the fight counts. You know how easy Bedford Falls can become Pottersville. And you are confident, that while most of the time it doesn’t feel like it, at the end of it all, your community will realize how much you mean.