It’s a Wonderful Tradition

In our house we always—I do mean always—watch It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. This year we watched it on an iPad when our only television went out. Watching the movie is really my thing and everyone else has given in to my eccentricity.

The show has a lot of personal meaning to me because I watched it for the first time as a flat-broke single parent while wrapping Christmas presents late into the night (I’m a slow wrapper) on Christmas Eve. It helped me refocus on Christmas and less on self pity. I really needed that at the time…still do.

As we were watching it this year on the beautiful Retina display of the iPad, I was giving the typical narrative comparing that era to the present. As usual I’m saying things like, “That $8000 Uncle Billy lost is something like a ginormous amount of money nowadays.” Ginormous is difficult to visualize.

In order to be a little more precise I used the inflation calculator at the Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate its modern value. Two values stand out to me in the movie: 1) the $8000 Uncle Billy lost, and 2) the $25,000 line of credit Sam Wainwright telegrams to George Bailey.

In today’s dollars the lost $8,000 would be $133,182.29 and the $25,000 line of credit would $416,194.64! In that light, I think we all understand why George was freaking out and contemplating suicide. Plus, the powerful statement by Sam that people—the simple, self-sacrificing little people—are worth more than money. I love that show and I’m blessed by a wonderful family to watch it with.

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