Scrooge, Humbug, and Happy New Year

I know, I know Christmas is over. Even the New Years revelry in resolutions has now probably gone by the wayside. And yet, somehow, I can’t seem to shake this lasting thought from my mind. Why do we automatically associate scrooge with humbug, miser, and miserable old man?

Well, the short answer is because he was the main character in a beloved Christmas tale that depicts him as so – ruthless to the core, saying, among others, that if people can’t take care of themselves, they should just die quickly to help “reduce the surplus population!” Yep. I think that’s about as cold and miserly as one could get.

I have heard this story many times over, and have seen different depictions of the play and movie, and like so many millions of others, have come to type casting scrooge into this peg of a presence.

But this year something changed.

It all started as I <begrudgingly> agreed to let some of my kids take part in our community play of A Christmas Carol. I sat waaaay off to the side one night at practice, minding my own business, trying to get some work done and wondering what we had in the house that could be put on the table in under 10 minutes to feed the hungry crew at home once these kids finally finished their practice.

I looked up and noticed the directer sauntering toward me with a way-too-cheerful smile on her face and way-too-sweetly asked if I would be interested in taking part in this production. Before I could bellow “humbug!” she quickly explained that they were in desperate need of a ghost – they had the costume already – I didn’t have to sing or speak, or even show my face. All I had to do was don this huge black costume, walk on stage, and point. I apparently had the one quality that this part required: height.

Quite honestly, I agreed solely to be able to get my kids into good graces with this director and hopefully help them get some good parts in future productions, but inwardly groaned at the thought of having to secure babysitters (my #1 least favorite thing to do!) for the two littles not only for rehearsals, but also for 4 days in a row during school hour performances.

I’m not gonna lie – I was pretty impressive as my role of the ghost of Christmas future. I got the biggest reaction when I went on stage – mostly due to the fact that once secured on my body, the costume loomed a huge 12 feet in the air with long, bony arms and hands. It was quite the force to behold. And I could point with perfect precision (not counting the times I pointed in the absolute wrong direction, at the wrong times… hey it was my debut performance, give me a break!).

But what happened to me while I stood on the sidelines of the performances waiting for my part was nothing short of a miracle. I started listening to the words with more interest than I ever had before. I started to truly internalize and understand the message of this amazing play.

It got to the point where I wanted to jump out in front of the actors, push the ‘freeze’ button and ask the audience of kids, “did you get that?? Did you pay attention to that last comment?  THAT’S what life is all about… about making MANKIND your business… and doing it NOW, before it’s too late!” I wanted, just as jacob marley attempted, to warn them that life is so, so short, and an inward focus now will just lead you to misery later.

But then came the biggest hit home lesson of all. During my scene, Scrooge is finally scared enough to the point that he begs to have another chance. He begs to be able to prove that he can change. He pleads with me to give him him some sort of sign that the awful scenes laid before him of his death (and the rejoicing therein) could actually be changed if he changed. It was about the only time I wanted to break script, to go over to him and pat him on his head to let him know that everything would be okay. But I guess a bony old hand wouldn’t be the most comforting feeling clonking you on the head… so I simply stayed silent and exited.

When he wakes up and realizes that he had, indeed been given a ‘2nd’ chance, he truly makes the most of it. During this part of the play, I simply sat behind the curtain (the action was taking place in front with the curtain closed) to wait for the bows. As I sat there, I got to listen over, and over, and over again to the final words of the play. And I started thinking and pondering on this last part:

“A Merry Christmas, Bob! A merrier Christmas than I have given you for many a year. I’ll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family…”

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. And to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he became a second father. He became as good a friend, indeed, as good a man as the old city knew, or any other city for that matter. He had no further discourse with spirits, but is was always said of him hat he knew how to keep Christmas well, if anyone alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, of all of us!”

… and day after day as I sat and listened to this last description of Scrooge I wondered at the power of pigeon holing.

Certainly if I were to walk up to someone and say, “My, you are so very scrooge-like!” they would not take that as a compliment. Yet, if we look at the last paragraph of the entire book, it is probably the highest compliment one could give.

I have often wondered about the importance of change. Especially around the New Year, it seems that many of us take the time to look back on our lives and find areas where we are lacking, or in need of revamping in some ways. With the donning of January 1, we also resolve to change some things in ourselves, be they a scroogely overhaul, or a tiny tim tweak.

And yet, as with many customs in society, the “New Years Resolution” has come under great scrutiny and scorn. Each year the statistics come out at how many people don’t complete their resolutions… and we even go so far as to scoff at the new crop of gym hoppers that fill the weight room, telling each other to just wait out the week, and then we will have the gym back to ourselves again.

On this kinda-sorta-still-start of the new year, I have a question for us all. As we embark on this lifelong journey of improvement and change, are we allowing others the space to change and grow?

In your mind, which image below exemplifies the life of scrooge?

Happy-Scrooge-on-Christmas scrooge_2425689k

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it’s sometimes way too easy to judge others in their attempts to improve. Sometimes we may even become threatened by it – as if their improvement somehow diminishes our standing. Crazy, I know, but it happens.

I have seen this first hand in my life. On both sides of the coin. I have been on the side of begging people to see the new me and not hold the ‘old me’ over my head as an albatross I will never be able to break in their eyes. Sadly, I have also been on the other end, holding other peoples mistakes (especially-gulp-their mistakes that have hurt me the most) menacingly over their pleading looks to me for forgiveness and truly seeing them in a different light.

How about if we resolve, all together, to become the after-affirmers, rather than the before beholders. Could we perhaps each resolve that as we truly try to change day by day and week by week to mold a new remembrance of ourselves, we also allow those around us the space to do the same?

I think we can, and I think that vision looks glorious! In the spirit of this new year that is upon us – let’s work together to become our spectacular new scroogy-selves, and allow others the arena to do the same :).

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