Potter is not selling — he’s buying

panic at the Building & Loan in It's a Wonderful Life

One of my all-time favorite movies is It’s a Wonderful Life. A key scene features a run on the bank. Over at the Bailey Building & Loan, shareholders cram in, wanting their money. Since the bank has just closed. And they have expenses.

George Bailey tells them that Henry Potter, the richest man in town, has just bought the bank. It will reopen in a week.

Someone asks if Potter guaranteed the Building & Loan. George says he didn’t even ask. 

George’s argument is this: We’re all panicking. Potter is not. He’s buying. On the cheap. He’ll own the entire town for next to nothing. Because he stayed cool and everyone else panicked.

That’s a good argument — within limits. For at least one of the cash-starved customers, Potter’s offer of 50 cents on the dollar for shares of the Building & Loan is seriously enticing. Because it’s something right now. When everything is tanking.

Eventually, George is able to talk his customers off the ledge and the Building & Loan ends the day with $2 in cash. Enough to not be bankrupt. 

The Building & Loan is saved and because it’s saved, there’s a better future ahead for Bedford Falls.

Like Potter, George also sees opportunity. Just a different kind. To Potter, the economic meltdown is a green light to enrich himself. Then he, the oligarch, will own everything. And everyone else owe him.

George sees a different opportunity: Let’s stand together, look out for each other and do what’s good for all of us. It will require self-control and sacrifice now, but we will come out ahead in the long run. And we’ll control our destinies.

With George’s help, they weather the Great Depression and the town is better for it.

Staying cool and positive in tough times

That all has become a whole lot more real lately, with the rapid spread of the Coronavirus. 

One day life was going on as usual. Okay, there was this Coronavirus thing, but it was “over there” — abroad, on the coast, another state. Other states might show up red on the map, having active cases. But Arkansas was still white. No cases.

Then it all changed. The first confirmed case. The dominoes started falling. One school closed. For a few days, they said. As a precaution. Then all the schools in several counties closed. 

Before you knew it, the mayor instituted a curfew at night. 

Oh, and there were the obligatory runs on the grocery stores. Because now is apparently the time to hoard food and toilet paper.

So far that doesn’t sound like much of anything to stay positive about. Unless you know how to make toilet paper.

The 5 steps of grief and the Coronavirus

We’re going through a time now that is very similar to grieving. We did lose something: Life as we knew it. And instead got uncertainty. Lots of it.

During the grieving process we go through several distinct stages:


Coronavirus, sure, it’s that foreign thing. Way over there. We don’t do that here. Plus it’s really just the common cold. Or regular flu. And even if it gets here, I won’t get it. Others, but not me.


Why is my life being interrupted by this pandemic thing? It’s going to ruin me. Everything is out of control. You can’t make me stay in my house.


Playing the “what if” game. Trying to pick and choose from the effects of the outbreak to carve out a better situation for me.


Everything is going to hell in a handbaskst. The world is falling apart around me. I’m helpless.


Recognizing that this is the new normal for now. If we help each other, adjust and work together for the common good, we will make it through. Think listening to George Bailey.

We’re not all at the same stage of grief

Understanding these stages helps us understand our reactions and how we process news and information we get. 

While there is an order to the steps, different people require different lengths of time to work through the stages. And may even get stuck on one stage or seem to entirely skip another. Which can help explain some quite conflicting positions on how to best deal with the pandemic.

Add to that the fact that parts of the U.S. have been affected longer than others. Having the Coronavirus in the immediate community is rather new in Arkansas, but California and Washington state have dealt with it for a long time by now.

Cultivating a healthy perspective

We’re here, now. We’ve all been affected by the Coronavirus in some way. Some more, some less. The old normal is out the window. Many things I’m used to doing, I can’t do right now.

So how do I manage?

Here are 7 things that can help us cope and find a new normal (even a temporary one):


What am I grateful for today? In the midst of everything else, what is there that’s positive? It doesn’t have to be something big. It’s often the little things that matter most.

For more about perspective: Half full or half empty? And does it matter?

Keeping in touch

When we all need to keep physical distance, life can become isolated. So who can I call, email, text or video chat with today? We have a plethora of ways to (in the words of the old AT&T commercial) reach out and touch someone. All while maintaining the physical distance. Because we all need connection with others.

Create new routines

We are creatures of habit. Even while traveling or on vacation, we tend to quickly form new routines. Think of this as an opportunity to do so right here, in a familiar space. Who knows, some of the new routines may be so good, we’ll stick with them when this is all over.

Go outside

The sun still shines, birds sing, the wind feels good on your face. Spending time outside does wonders for soul, health and outlook on life. Just find places where you’re not around other people. Maybe try the backyard or front porch.

Be present

When everything is as normal, we tend to just roll along, going from one thing to another without really noticing the world around. Practice taking in the details for a change. Whether inside the house or outside. Reflect on them.

Check out this post: Seeing vs. perceiving — how we interact with the world

Try something new

What can I do new today? That I wouldn’t have been able to do if things were “normal”? Maybe read a book? Take an online course or training.

(For a few years I’ve wanted to go to a multi-day conference, but the timing hasn’t been right to make the trip and spend the money. Because of the pandemic, the in-person conference was cancelled and its place there will be a live, online version. Yay! I can do that!)


Start journaling to record what you’re doing, thinking, feeling. It will help with processing everything that is changing so fast and also help in keeping this all from becoming a blur. And might become a great habit going forward.

Slouching towards a new normal

These are extraordinary times indeed. Not something we asked for. Or even imagined. But we’re here, it’s life in the time of Coronavirus.

It’s understandable that many just want to get back to “normal”. Meaning the way things were before the Coronavirus. Life as usual. Except that is not going to happen any time soon.

Certainly not by someone deciding we’ll be done and over the Coronavirus on an arbitrary date.

And just like 9/11 forever changed how we travel, it won’t be the old normal we go back to. Rather there will eventually be a new normal. But that’s still in the future.

Until we get there, hang in with George Bailey for the common good. Try a few of the tips above to start building new routines, finding new meaning and purpose in life each day.