For the umpteenth time I find myself watching Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Yet, in all the years those reels have run through my retinal receptors, for the first time I really see the poignant – if unintended – metaphor.
We – Western New York – are Bedford Falls.
I don’t mean in the literal sense like Seneca Falls. I don’t mean in the physical-proximity sense because the movie mentions Buffalo and Rochester. And I don’t mean in the meteorological sense because those are definitely lake-effect snowflakes in the film. Rather, I speak of a much more mysterious philosophical aura that borders on the eerie similarities of tragic prognostication laced with a fringe of hope.
We are the dying unexciting old Bedford Falls.
We have watched our factories move. We wave good bye to our sons and brothers as we send them off to college hoping they’ll come back to relieve us. They rarely do. Our dream is to travel to some tropical isle, but we’re lucky if we can get the time off from work (although many of us are happy just to have a job). We are small businesses producing a modest living for us and increasingly providing the lifeblood to our community. At the same, we lurch constantly on the brink as big corporations and even bigger governments try their best to keep us small.
Yes, the same despair of Bedford Falls, a fictional town from which youth escape by going to Buffalo, Rochester, Elmira and Binghamton, has now visited those very real cities and, in particular, Western New York.
We are the dutiful honest-to-a-fault Bedford Falls.
We don’t pretend to represent perfection and, as if to prove so, quickly complain of our plight when offered the opportunity. But our modesty does not prevent us from stepping up when a void needs filling, even if it’s not in our own best interests. Our economic muscle and youthful vigor might slowly seep to warmer climes, but our loyalty to any obligation stays with us, as strong and vibrant as ever.
Yes, we remain reliable, even as some merely call us “reliable dupes.” Not taken in on some wild scheme – we’re much too steadfast for that – but dupes in the way any Tom Sawyer can get us to paint his fence.
Still, we are also the rock solid resilient Bedford Falls.
Chris Berman knows a thing or two about our community when he says “nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.” No matter what ills befall us – man-made or natural – we vow to keep the home fires burning, the factories open and the streets plowed. We readily maintain all that is – if not all that was – so we can welcome home, for however as brief a time, our itinerant family and friends. They still – and always will – consider Western New York their home. And they should. And we hope they come back.
And some do.
So we are all George Bailey. We try our best to improve our community. We strive to convince others to stay, to lure still others to relocate. We fight the good fight against the behemoths who seek only to extract and keep us down. We may lose, but we believe we’ll win.
Because deep in the heart of Western New York we know we’ll always have Clarence.
And that makes us as rich as anyone can ever be.