One of my favorite stories at this time of year is Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol. When I think of the story I usually fast forward to the wonderful ending and sometimes forget the state of Scrooge when the story began. Consider this passage from it where Scrooge speaks with a few men who are asking him to help the poor with a donation:
Now before you say that you are glad that we do not live in times such as the one portrayed here I might remind you that some still believe that the poorest amongst us simply need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps - I am sure that you are not one of those people.
Ebenezer: Are there no prisons?
First Collector: Plenty of prisons.
Ebenezer: And the union workhouses - are they still in operation?
First Collector: They are. I wish I could say they were not.
Ebenezer: Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. Im very glad to hear it.
First Collector: I dont think you quite understand us, sir. A few of us are endeavoring to buy the poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth.
First Collector: Because it is at Christmastime that want is most keenly felt, and abundance rejoices. Now what can I put you down for?
Ebenezer: Huh! Nothing!
Second Collector: You wish to be anonymous?
Ebenezer: [firmly, but calmly] I wish to be left alone. Since you ask me what I wish sir, that is my answer. I help to support the establishments I have named; those who are badly off must go there.
First Collector: Many cant go there.
Second Collector: And some would rather die.
Ebenezer: If they'd rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.
So perhaps we might consider howto fight the Scrooge in us during this season of Christmas. I suggest that we:
- resist the urge to pass by Salvation Army kettles and intentionally keep sufficient bills in our wallets to be deposit in those kettles;
- consider writing a check this month to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.. or possibly find a way to volunteer at one of those establishments;
- encourage our places of worship to support outreaches to the poor, homeless and less fortunate members of our communities;
- elevate the amount of tipping for waiters, waitresses, porters, cabbies and others who depend on the generosity of the people who they serve;
- embrace intentional generosity in our Christmas giving and determine to elevate our charitable donations for the coming year.
... first posted December 2, 2010