“I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now.”
— Ebenezer Scrooge to the Ghost of Christmas Present
I’m a week removed from my counting house, what my former business partner calls our “money-changing hole,” when he returns to haunt me, as he does every year.
Such an attitude, Jacob.
And even though by the end of the story we realize he’s right, Marley’s still a bit of a yutz with all the chain rattling and screaming. Really, Jake? Such drama.
Equally true is that each year when I wield a quill, don a little grease paint and make the most of my miserly role as Scrooge in a “A Christmas Carol,” I get a clearer picture of Dickens’ message.
Which is why, even though mine is a theatrical résumé, I thought I’d detail a couple things on which my Scroogie alter ego has schooled me.
For starters, Christmas Present (the time, not the ghost) could use a little cheer. I know that may be a rather odd juxtaposition coming from the world’s most famous humbuggian icon. Even a pretend one.
Recently, for example, we’ve wondered if being touted and praised as a “fiscal conservative” meant simply not paying your bills or fines.
Geez, even Scrooge ponied up for his responsibilities and paid Crachit a pittance, albeit with a bad attitude until his disemboweled partner showed up all ashy and sporting seven-years-dead breath.
Then somebody labeled Pope Francis a Marxist because he had the audacity to remind us that the world is home to more than those who own counting houses, and we should consider the consequences of conducting our lives otherwise.
A Marxist? Seriously? Calling the leader of 1.2 billion God-believing Catholics a Marxist shows little understanding of Marxism with its “opium of the people” hostility toward organ- ized religion.
Scrooge, himself a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner,” would know that, especially after his apparition-induced conversion: “He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars.”
Perhaps rather than call the pope names or suggest his economic observations are hellish, we should listen to him when he pokes us in the ribs and points to our fellow humans.
True to form, after the broad- side and ensuing controversy, it’s apparent that Pope Francis, as Dickens wrote, in “His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”
Then, walking the walk, he invited four random homeless men from the streets of Rome to share his birthday breakfast in his residence at the Vatican. “He was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more.”
Which brings me to the Santa Claus ethnicity question.
Really, people, it’s come to this? Have we completely missed our exit?
Can we no longer celebrate Christmas without some declaration of faux war or delusional dissertation and throwdown on Kringle’s kin or fighting words on how many magi you can fit on the back of a camel?
From where I knelt a week ago, however, begging Christmas Future for my life, my hope this season is that we can go forth on compulsion and learn.
Or be visited by a trio of game-changing ghosts, whichever is easier.
Relax, Pal. None of us need go all Tiny Tim on the deal — although the kid spoke some truth with the “God bless us everyone” schtick.
I suggest perhaps we remember at this time of year what saved Ebenezer Scrooge from his own fateful chain forging, from not knowing “any Christian spirit working kindly,” from the “narrow limits of (his) money-changing hole,” from a life that warned “all human sympathy to keep its distance.”
Here’s what England’s most tight-fisted nose to the grindstone came up with — via the genius of Charles Dickens and some spectral urging: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
Which is my annual lesson — and my hope for you this Christmas.