Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him. (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843).It is perhaps unlikely that any apparition will poke its nose through your bed curtains this year, forcing you to examine yourself and all your foibles, but that should not hinder you in your own self-examination. The ghosts of Christmases past, present and yet to come are duly encompassed by the conscience, which in our case, unlike in Scrooge’s, works quite well enough I am sure.
Have we been miserly and mean? Short-tempered and brusque? Uncharitable and callous? Have we lost our humanity in the hurly burly? Our good sense for the sake of dollars and cents? I trust not, but I for one welcome the opportunity to check. We drift into new habits of misanthropy if we let down our guard – which we all assuredly do at times – because the people we meet whom we do not know tend to encourage ill feeling. The crowds of a busy shopping street; the impatient assemblage of the supermarket queue; the drivers who make up the holiday traffic; TV weather men; teenagers on the train; pressure salesmen; surly waiters, and so on. Unless we come up for air from this sea of awfulness, we might feel justified in beginning to think that people are generally bad. But when we are abroad among the madding crown, and other people meet us, they likely think that we too are the pit of humanity!
Since this clearly won’t do, I suggest getting in touch with our better natures in the spirit of the season. A little sympathy here, perhaps; a little generosity there. Prepare to charm and be charmed, and to let the things that rub us the wrong way go by without a second thought. Be generous in giving, and humble in receipt. And give of yourself – your time, your ears – and not just of your wallet. In any case, I’m sure you’ve all been thoroughly nice all year. But best to check, lest you should hear the rattling of chains.