Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Scrooge or Cratchit?

I passed a church the other day and its sign read: "Want to get rich quick? Count your blessings."

The subject of counting your blessings always reminds me of Charles Dickens' masterpiece, A Christmas Carol. A tale of two men - Bob Cratchit who counted his blessings as a lifestyle, and Ebenezer Scrooge who wouldn't count his blessings until he was visited by four formidable ghosts including one who revealed Scrooge's own death.

How many Cratchits and Scrooges do you know? I know many people who seem to have the same benefits in life: the same opportunity for love, the same financial security, the same good health. And yet, one is joyous and the other never passes up a chance to curse his luck. Poor Bob Cratchit lived in poverty and had a dying son, yet he was happy. Scrooge had some misfortune in his youth, and he squandered the rest of his life making the world (and himself) pay for it.

It is often said that Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol to bring attention to the plight of poor children. He himself had infamously spent time in a workhouse as a boy, like many of his characters. Perhaps that explains the exchange between the second ghost and Scrooge. The ghost opens his robe to reveal two children "wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable." "Spirit! are they yours?" Scrooge asks. "They are Man's," replies the Spirit.

Surely, this accounting we do of our blessings contemplates that we share some with those less fortunate. After all, as Dickens' reminds us, the poor are ours. If we don't take care of them, no one will. Still, I can't help but wonder if that's really what all this blessings business is about. Is it really just a matter of totaling up what you have and sharing it with someone who has less?

Maybe it's more than that. Maybe the blessings we count should include the pure joy of just being alive, and celebrating that fact. After all, even ole' Scrooge "knew how to keep Christmas well" after that little nocturnal visit and Tiny Tim observed "God Bless Us, Every One!"

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Most blessed of New Years.


Karen said...

I think counting your blessings must be "all of the above." I know, as years have passed, I get a lot more satisfaction from giving than receiving. And I also feel ashamed on a day like today, when I'm cranky and fed up with the weather, when I think of the homeless, those without heat or electricity, those without jobs. After an icky commute I got here and found an email from a friend who had been her brother's bone marrow donor last month. His latest doctor report is stellar, and far better than anyone ever dreamed. That's a blessing - the weather is just a temporary nuisance. Don't just count your blessings - rejoice and share.

Laura A. said...

I've loved A Christmas Carol ever since my Dad took me and my sister to the movie-musical version starring Albert Finney when we were kids. I love that Scrooge, old as he was, was able to change--to become a better man and try to lessen the misery of others. He doesn't have to remain the man he was before the spirits' visit--he can change, he can redeem his life. A message of hope and redemption that still moves me.

Linda K said...

I'd have to say I'm a little bit Scrooge, and a little bit Crachit. While I love the decorations, and the overall spirit of the season, the commercialism and the exhaustion of trudging through the snow to get to the store to buy stuff nobody needs to support the lousy economy gets me down. (Did you notice the Scrooge factor in there?) By this time of the year I don't want to hear another version of Jingle Bells in Dominicks or Jewel! To recover and stay in the spirit I shop early, stay in more and watch old holiday favorites on DVD. (That way I can skip the commercials for more stuff.) I favor the goofier holiday movies - Home Alone, Elf, and Christmas Vacation - and the darkly funny holiday books such as The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore. Hurry Spring!

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