The Scrooge Effect
In 2008, while on a long December layover in the Atlanta Airport, I bought a paperback copy of A Christmas Carol. I read it in one sitting (it’s a short book) and have done so every year since then. That means I’ve read the tale eleven times, so trust me when I say this: most people don’t understand the message of the story.
A Christmas Carol is not a story about how you should be cheerful at Christmas. "Don't be a grumpy, bah humbug Scrooge" is not the point.
It's a story about how we have a moral responsibility to care for our fellow human beings. To lift them out of suffering, to be concerned with the welfare of the disadvantaged, the poor, the hungry, and the lonely.
It's a story about the soul-tarnishing consequences of believing that things will sort themselves out, that suffering is the problem of the sufferer and need not concern those who are privileged enough, through random chance, not to suffer.
It's a warning against the idea that the poor have somehow caused their own poverty. That pain is somehow deserved.
It is a call to arms, and above all, a plea for empathy.
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,' faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
Remember: this is a ghost story. And at the heart of every ghost story is this--our every action, our every choice, has a consequence.