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.