A man wrote a short story that he could not get published. So he included it in 200 Christmas cards he sent out to friends and family.
One of the cards ended up in the hands of a film director. He made a film based on that story.
It lost a fortune and the director never made a successful film again. He ultimately had to sell his production company and with it the rights to the film.
The company and the rights were sold several more times. The eventual owner forgot to renew the copyright of the film.
Which meant that it was now free to anyone who wanted to air the film.
So PBS did.
And then other networks followed suit.
They aired it around Christmas because they needed cheap programming to compete with newer holiday specials.
The film was It’s a Wonderful Life.
The story behind how this classic came to be epitomizes its name and central message every bit as much as the better known plot of the film itself.
Small invisible acts by people known and unknown shape our lives. It reminds us to send more such acts into the world – without thought or expectation of any grand outcome.
Although, as this story shows, this doesn't mean that something grand won't eventually happen. And when it does and others learn the story behind the story, they too will feel all the more grateful and enriched. Perhaps inspiring more simple invisible acts to made.
Thank you to Phillip Van Doren Stern for sending his story, “The Greatest Gift” out into the world and into our hearts.