I always tear up when I see or read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It does not matter which version it is, the 1930’s movie, my favorite by the way, or the 1980’s George C. Scott version, the Disney CG version with Jim Carrey, the Mickey Mouse version, it does not matter. Poor execution cannot detract from Dickens’ marvelous story.
When Ebenezer Scrooge realizes the errors of his past and embraces compassion, I never fail to choke up. I think that is because I see a bit of myself in Ebenezer, and it frightens me. Ebenezer is a lonely soul by his own design. Through the years he cuts himself off from friends and family until he is the recluse we meet in the first act. Like Ebenezer, I am an isolated person. Through the years I have cut myself off from others.
In my case it was not intentional. For me it is the result of happenstance, an outgrowth of introversion and social anxiety. I did not realize that I was secluding myself from others. I am sure that Ebenezer did not realize it either. It is possible to argue that Scrooge’s isolation from people grew out of fear of being hurt again, as when he lost the love of his life due to his work obsession. But the results are very different, as Ebenezer grows to truly dislike people, not just fear social interactions with them. He is comfortable with himself. His dislike is with people. My fear is with me and my own actions and how they are perceived.
I fully recognize the vast and important differences between Scrooge and myself. I am not so miserly. I am certainly not so rich either. But even on my meager earnings I manage to contribute to charities from time to time. I do not resent the poor and wretched. On the contrary, I worry about them. My heart goes out to them. I do not humbug Christmas cheer, except perhaps that the advertising hype starts way too early.
But then comes the last act. Frightened by the three spirits that visit him, he turns his cheek and begins to embrace the warmth of human camaraderie. In no time at all he becomes the epitome of human compassion and is loved by all in his town. How could I not tear up? To think that I could simply wake up one morning and with a smile I could become everyone’s favorite neighbor. I would instantly know how to fit in, how to chitchat, now to socialize, all social fears forever erased.
Doubtless, Ebenezer bought a great many of his new friendships. Certainly he did not buy the love of his nephew. And I would argue that he did not buy the appreciation and love of Bob Cratchet or Tiny Tim. He invested time in those relationships as well as money. But he did have the capital to expend in order to collect the necessary time.
Alas, life is not as simple as a story.