Paul believes in the Christmas Spirit, and al the cheer and joy that comes with it. It truly is a wonderful time of the year, .
A frozen fog had gripped the town, a fog that was getting frostier and thicker with each passing minute, obscuring the tops of buildings and bell towers alike. Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge had just voiced a stern "Good afternoon" as a goodbye and please leave to a duo of gentlemen who had come to the offices of Scrooge and Marley in an effort to collect a small donation for the poor and hungry in the area. Scrooge declined. These men were also informed that Jacob Marley, Scrooge's business partner, was deceased — dead for seven years to the day, the day being Christmas eve.
Earlier, Scrooge had made a similar "Good afternoon" farewell to his forever cheerful nephew, who had stopped by with a warm and generous invitation for his uncle to dine with him and his wife and some friends on Christmas day. Scrooge declined that offer as well. His nephew departed as the two gentleman were arriving.
Earlier still, Scrooge had admonished his clerk in his failed attempt to add some coal to his very small fire. The clerk, retuning to his desk, tried in vain to use the flame from his candle to warm his hands. But he was warmed a bit by the presence and good cheer of Scrooge's nephew who was just then arriving.
The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slyly down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there."
— Charles Dickens, from A CHRISTMAS CAROL
The time was approaching -- seven o'clock, for the day's business to come to a close. After chasing away a young well-wisher, who had attempted to sing a Christmas carol through Scrooge's keyhole, and grudgingly allowing his clerk to have Christmas day off, Scrooge closed down his shop, and headed home.
It was not much later when a terrified Scrooge sat in the presence of his former partner - yes, the dead one, Jacob Marley, who had come to warn him that the way in which he conducted his affairs would lead to a similar fate as his own, a fate of torment, moving through the world heavily chained, seeing all the good things he could have and should have done while he was alive, and now unable to do so. He also told Scrooge that he would receive an opportunity to save himself through the visits of three more spirits: the ghosts of Christmas. He was told that the first one would come "when the bell tolls One." The second one would come the following night at the same hour, the third one on the next night at Twelve.
Scrooge welcomed the chance to save himself from his partner's fate but was not very enthusiastic about being visited by a bunch of ghosts. But he was sleepy, so he retired to his bed. He awoke sometime later to the sound of a nearby church bell who's tolling eventually ended at Twelve. This was odd because he had gone to bed after two, so he stayed awake, and sure enough the next tolling of the bell ended at the hour of One, at which time Scrooge found himself in the presence of a bright apparition that introduced itself as the ghost of Christmas past. This ghost, this spirit, took Scrooge on short journey to his earlier days; he was shown a time when he was not so miserable and miserly. Among the places he visited was a former place of business where he was apprenticed to a man, a Mr. Fezziwig, a jolly sort, who had a party every Christmas eve, a party that a cheerful Ebenezer was very much a part of. He was told by the ghost that what he was seeing was not real, just 'shades' of things that had occurred. Old Scrooge seemed to be a bit affected by all the cheer that he witnessed around him, but when he saw himself changing as he became an adult, he tried to extinguish the light of the ghost, with the ghost's own cap, pulling it down over his head, as if to snuff a candle, almost completely putting out the light.
There was a great poverty in the land at the time, a harsh and cruel poverty, and Scrooge's answer to this problem was to separate himself from it through greed and gain, He left the ghost and returned to sleep, once again awaking to the sound of the bell tolling One.
Scrooge was greeted by the ghost of Christmas present and took a tour of a beautiful Christmas Day and evening, seeing all the cheer and goodwill that he had been missing. He asked the spirit if this was all real. He was told that it was and that it was he and Scrooge who were the shades -- the shadows. They visited, among many places, the dwelling of his clerk, Bob Cratchit, and his family, and witnessed the merriment they shared despite their meagerness, and discovered that one of Bob's sons, Tim, was crippled and ill, the prospects of his future not looking very well. They later visited the home of his nephew and witnessed the merriment there, a merriment he said no to every year. Again, he seemed to be affected by all this cheer and goodwill, but as midnight approached, he noticed that the Spirit had grown old, and the time was near for him to depart. The bell tolled Twelve and Scrooge found himself in the presence of a phantom, the ghost of Christmas yet to come.
Scrooge was shown a very frightening future, part of which was a visit to a grieving Cratchit family, mourning the loss of their tiny Tim. He also saw a shrouded corpse, a man, who had died alone, a death that had no mourners, and discovered that it was he himself who was this man. When he asked the ghost if the things he was seeing were things that will happen or might happen, the ghost was silent. This was a choice that Scrooge would have to make himself.
Back to the Present
Scrooge decided that the future he witnessed, was one that did not have to be. He chose to create his own by changing his ways. He woke to a cold but beautiful and clear Christmas morning; the spirits having completed their tasks all in one night. After a hearty laugh, a giddy Ebenezer Scrooge returned to his business, his business being the wellbeing and care of his fellow man, woman, and child, a business that he had neglected for many a year. He began with his clerk, Bob, and his family, increasing his salary, and becoming close to Tim, who did get well. He spent that first Christmas of his new life dining with his nephew and his wife and their guests. He also became a fine keeper of Christmas, not many merrier or jollier than he.
Scrooge could not change the events of the past, but by changing the way he lived in the present, and by cherishing the memories of the happiness and cheer that he had experienced in some of his early days, he was able to change his life story, in which all of the undesirable parts became but small pieces of a much larger story of a life well lived.
It is now time for all of us to get back to business, our business being the same as that of Mister Scrooge and Mister Marley. It is the business of humanity. It is the business of kindness and caring. It is the business of giving, even if the only thing we have to give is our cheer and good will.
We cannot go back, but we can move forward, knowing that everything we do can affect what is to come. We have the ability to influence all possible futures, perhaps leading to one that contains a bit more of that elusive peace on Earth.
© 2012 Paul K Francis