Every Christmas my family watches Scrooge, the best adaptation of Dickens’ beloved story, A Christmas Carol.
This year, I decided to go back and read the original 100-page novella, and boy did it hit, so much so that I think I’ll make reading it a new Christmas tradition.
All those classic characteristics of the best Christmas stories are there: generosity, kindness, and, most of all, redemption.
There’s something so satisfying in watching a drastic change of heart, in so short a period of time. It’s a reminder to me that we are all capable of immense change by simply altering our attitude towards life.
If a greedy old man who, when asked for a donation to help house the poor, responds with “Are there no jails?”, on Christmas Eve, can by the next day run out his door in fits of genuine laughter, offer his clerk a raise, and help him save his dying son, then there’s no reason why, with a little perspective and self-reflection, I can’t go from cynical about work one moment to grateful for my income the next, from peeved at my incoming texts at five to thankful for my friends at 5:01.
As we age, we all get some grime on our souls. Life is a messy place, after all. We might become somewhat resentful, jaded, rude, unreasonable, selfish, prejudiced, ungrateful, or, if we don’t watch out, downright vengeful.
No one, not even a Buddhist monk, is totally safe from picking up vices. What matters is that we notice them, peel them off our souls, and toss them away like the nasty burs they are.
In this story, Dickens gives us a sort of 3-step program for changing for the better:
- A look into your past: What good parts of ourselves have we lost? A hobby, a habit, a way of seeing the world? And where did we lose it?
- An evaluation of your current state: Who or what are we neglecting and hurting? Our family, our friends, our teeth, ourselves? And what can we do to change it?
- A glimpse into the future: Where are you headed if you continue acting this way? Is it where you want to end up? Or is it your own personal Hell? Do you dislike the person looking back at you through time? What can be done to avoid becoming them?
Scrooge is only us in extremity, and so we can learn by his example.
We might not be so horrible that we go around wishing death to the surplus population, but we may be so irritable that we cut a loved one short.
I hope that one day I’m the type of person that can experience what Scrooge did on that Christmas Day — he “found that everything could yield him pleasure.”
I’ll try to remember that going forward, that almost everything, if you look hard enough, has the possibility to surprise and amuse you.
And when I find myself feeling like Scrooge before his visitations from the three ghosts, wanting to say things like “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart,” well, then I know it’s time to think of Scrooge as he was at the end of the book.