Happy Monday, Bookworms. In honor of the holiday season, I decided to re-read my all-time favorite holiday story, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It’s a classic tale of redemption and good triumphing over indifference. In light of all that’s gone on in recent days, I think it’s helpful to focus on some of the positives in the world. Teachers are often unsung heroes because so much of what they do is intertwined with politics. I firmly believe that most teachers try to help their students to the very best of their ability, regardless of what test scores may say. When the chips were down, the heroic teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary that laid down their lives to protect their students. Let’s just take a second to be grateful for awesome teachers, shall we? My love affair with A Christmas Carol began in school, thanks to some of those fabulous teachers.
When I was in the 4th grade, we did a class production of A Christmas Carol. I wanted to play Ebenezer Scrooge (because it was the lead role, and I have always been a praise junkie), but instead I was cast as potentially the coolest character in the whole story- The Ghost of Christmas Present. I got to wear what I believe was a seasonal altar boy’s robe and a wreath on my head. I look good in hats… Even if they’re made of evergreen. I REALLY wish I had a photo of this. Sadly, I do not. Instead I offer you this:
When I was in the 6th grade, my English teacher assigned us our first major paper. It was a compare/contrast paper highlighting the differences between Dickens’s original text and two movie versions of the story. The teacher in question reads my blog. The internet is funny that way. Hi, Mrs. Y! (You can’t see it, but I’m waving at you right now.) I’m sure you cringe at my “artistic” use of fragments and run-ons, but I assure you that I really DO know the rules. I just flout them. Trivial tidbit: if you read A Christmas Carol you’ll notice that instead of being divided into chapters, it’s divided into sections called “staves.” A “stave” is the plural word for staff, as in, music staff. Dickens was being cheeky and “composing” his Christmas “carol” as though it were actually music. It’s enormously clever. Let’s all give a polite poetry clap to Charles Dickens’s humor…
On the off chance that you’ve never read A Christmas Carol, seen a single movie adaptation of it, or watched a sitcom in the last 150 years, I’ll give you a little synopsis. Ebenezer Scrooge is a wealthy man, but he’s the biggest grump in all of London. He’s rich, but super cheap. He gives nothing to charity, he underpays his clerk, he is mean to his only living relative, and he’d rather be cold than spend money on coal t0 keep his office warm. He used to have a partner in crime named Jacob Marley. Marley died 7 years before our story begins, but chooses to come back in his ghostly form to give Scrooge a warning one Christmas Eve. Marley tells Scrooge he needs to quit being a cheap bastard because if he doesn’t, he’ll be forced to wander the afterlife dragging chains and being miserable. He tells Scrooge that he’ll be visited by 3 spirits that night (to which Scrooge rather glibly replies that he’d like to see them all at once to get it over with…You’ve got to give him credit for being ballsy. I wouldn’t argue with a ghost…)
Scrooge goes on to be visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future. It’s a fascinating journey through Scrooge’s psyche as we explore Christmases past. We get to watch the childhood traumas he experiences that turn him into a big mean jerk. We see his lost love. We see the glimmers of humanity that must be hiding under the gruff facade. The Ghost of Christmas Present (a part I am known to have played more brilliantly than any other 4th grader ever… Obviously) takes Scrooge on a tour of the present’s festivities. Scrooge visits the nephew he constantly brushes off. He sees his clerk’s family subsisting on his meager salary, but displaying love and joy despite their poverty. The Ghost of Christmas Future shows Scrooge a bleak picture of what will become of him if he does not change his ways.
You know what happens when Scrooge gets up on Christmas morning?! He changes his ways! He jumps on his bed, he buys a giant turkey, and he goes to dinner at his nephew’s house. He gives Bob Crachit a raise! He gives a fat chunk of cash to charity and he begins to laugh again. Is there anything more heartwarming than a story of redemption? A story that celebrates giving, joy, and caring. A Christmas Carol is a classic for a reason. It reminds the reader that there is more to life than money. There is immeasurable joy to be had by helping out our fellow human beings. Decency and kindness don’t go unnoticed.
I’m being rather cowardly in avoiding in-depth discussion of the nightmare that occurred in Connecticut on Friday. My heart broke along with the rest of the world when the story broke. I simply can’t wrap my mind around that much sadness without plunging into a black hole of despair… Which will accomplish absolutely nothing. Right now I CHOOSE to celebrate the good. I want to buy someone’s coffee. I want to send a card to a little old lady. I want to give a gift just for the sake of seeing the recipient smile. I can’t undo what’s been done, but I can refuse to allow tragedy to define my behavior. I’m going to spread some JOY to chase away a tiny corner of darkness. I encourage you to do the same. As Tiny Tim so succinctly put it, “God bless us, every one.”