Spirit of the Season
Most all of us know the story “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Surely one of the greatest authors of all time, his account of the changing heart of Mr. Scrooge has been told many times over in books and movies by famous and not so famous alike. It is a rare person to have escaped a telling of this tale. It’s certainly one of my holiday favorites.
It’s a great story to illustrate the effect of character on our lives as well. Scrooge is first described to us as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” I’m sure you’ve known your share of this type of person during the holiday season – it seems to bring out both the best and the worst in people. Despite his personality, his business is very successful. But that is his focus, and he does nothing if not for profit.
When he is visited first by the ghost of his friend and business partner, Jacob Marley, he is shocked by the weight of the chain Marley carries. I was intrigued by the description of the chain, not made just from iron links as is so often depicted, but of the things with which he filled his life: “cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.” Scrooge is confused by the chain, due to the success of their business, and Marley becomes distraught:
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
As we know, Scrooge is visited by three more ghosts that evening who show him his Christmas Past and Present, enlightening him to the situation he has created, and the situation that will come to pass if he does not change. He sees the care that was shone to him by his former employer, by his former love; and then shone the lack of care he shows his own employee, that famous Bob Crachit, and the way he broke the heart of the woman who loved him when he showed her that he loved money more. He is shown the way he will be treated at death, how the lack of care he has shown those in his life will lead to the lack of care when he leaves this life. His heart is changed, and his character, as he begins to care about his fellow humans in word and deed.
Just like Scrooge, we can be caught up in a pursuit that while successful, may not be our best self. Scrooge’s pursuit was amassing wealth, but in today’s age of social media we can become obsessed with showing the world that we have it all, or can do it all, and or can give it all. And while we might be successful in those ventures, that doesn’t mean we’re being our best selves. You don’t have to give huge amounts to charity, nor buy all the layaways at your local Walmart, nor show off by giving only the latest and greatest. At the end of the story, his heart being changed, Scrooge sent a huge turkey to the Crachit family anonymously, and then went to dinner at this nephew’s house as he had been invited, to spend time with the family he had neglected. Character does not demand grand gestures from us, nor does it require that we shout our good graces from rooftops – or on Snapchat. Character, especially in this season, is greeting strangers with a smile even if their mood is sour, allowing that person trying to merge on the highway a spot in the line even if you’re in a hurry, or just pausing in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us to be grateful for the people in our lives and the things we have.
Regardless of the holiday you celebrate this time of year, I hope that you find the spirit of the season to bring you joy and peace in your life, now and into the New Year.