If A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens left us with one conclusion, it was this: there is hope for even the crabbiest Ebenezer. Bob Cratchit’s good attitude and tenacity did count for something in the end, and Scrooge’s heart did have the capacity to soften, and ghosts do exist (okay, maybe that one’s debatable). Beyond the political statement about middle-class England and beyond the effect this simple yet touching story had on Puritan America (it brought back the celebration of Christmas!), at its roots, A Christmas Carol targeted the Scrooge in all of us – in all of our lives. Because he exists. And he is mean.
And I know him.
The day I met him, I had him pegged as a Scrooge. He fits the definition to a “T”; he might as well be Ebenezer’s great-great-great grandchild.
Scrooge is a mean, profane, blunt, stingy person. Unfortunately, I have to put up with him. Contentment with this fact is hard to muster. Unfortunately, he doesn’t care if I’m content with him or not – he doesn’t care if I like him or not – and he’s not going anywhere.
Urban dictionary has harsh words to use to define Scrooge. Miserable. Selfish. Stingy. Some profanity that I would never type. Merriam-Webster defines a Scrooge as a “miserly person.” These are words I would cry over if they came from anyone’s mouth about myself. And honestly, don’t we all have days that we are Scrooges? Yes, from time to time I even look like the old guy. Ask my mother. (Actually, don’t, because I’d rather her not tell stories on me. I’d much rather you maintain the illusion that my life is free of bad moods, angry words, and sour attitudes… okay?)
I wish I could share details about my Scrooge. Give you a picture. I won’t do that. Suffice it to say that Scrooge will trample down the sensitive, obedient person no matter how hard you try to please him. Suffice it to say that Scrooge doesn’t try to be liked. He doesn’t care. There is a certain amount of respect that comes with being Scrooge, at least to your face. Scrooge makes people unhappy and doesn’t particularly care.
The thing is, there is hope for every Scrooge. There is transformation in revelation. It doesn’t take flying over London at night with the Grim Reaper, or visiting your own grave, or waiting for the bell to toll one o’clock on the most frightening night of your life, like it did for Dickens’ Scrooge. No, what a Scrooge needs is a little warmth infused in his heart, and suddenly he can be a new person.
Because Scrooge has a heart. Yes, under the grouchiness, and the cruel words, and the shouting, and the grumpy physique, he is a hardworking man with a conscience. He will do his part without complaining. He will go the distance. And even if he shouts at you, and your eyes tear up, and you just want to yell back, you know that deep down, he doesn’t really mean it. The spirit of Dickens’ Ebenezer, before his conversion, has wrapped itself round your Scrooge’s heart so tight it is constricted and unhappy.
My heart goes out for Scrooge.
What I’ve learned in my day-to-day interaction with Scrooge: never forget that there is more to people than the costume they wear on the surface. It takes a hardened, injured individual to keep up the Scrooge persona their whole life. Dare to believe they have a heart – and treat them that way. Be a Bob Cratchit, and refuse to give up hope that they can change. Radiate warmth. Dare them to start heating up.
I’m hoping, Scrooge. Here’s to you, to the potential for change, to your softened heart.