Keeping Christmas Well

Ebenezer Scrooge was able to shake off his bah-humbug attitude and find the joy in caring for others. This Christmas, it’s up to us to do the same. by Lt. Colonel Tim Foley
Photo ©1938 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

Near the beginning of the classic story “A Christmas Carol,” two solicitors bravely enter the workplace of Ebenezer Scrooge. With hat in hand and great energy, one solicitor eagerly states, “At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.” 

To which Scrooge replies, “Are there no prisons?”

The young solicitor promptly responds, “Plenty of prisons…”

“And the Union workhouses,” demands Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“Both very busy, sir.”

The elder solicitor pipes up, “Those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die,” the young solicitor adds.

“If they would rather die,” says Scrooge, “they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”

Charles Dickens reminds us through his timeless story that while the poor are always with us, they still need to be taken care of. Though Scrooge felt the needs of others only added to his bah-humbug attitude, in the end, he finally did see the light and found the joy in caring for others.

The tradition of caring for the less fortunate has been carried on by Salvationists around the world for over a century-and-a-half. The holiday season and The Salvation Army go hand in hand. Silver bells and the red kettles posted in various public spaces and shops around the world continue to call attention to the need to take care of others.

Most people are not aware of the tremendous planning, logistics and human effort that takes place behind the scenes. Working with volunteers, advisory boards and employees, Salvation Army officers begin in earnest, usually each summer, mapping out exactly how this sort of caring for others will play out. Developing fundraising strategies for the collection of toys and food becomes very time-consuming and all-encompassing. The Christmas season usually is not far from the officers’ minds, as tentative plans for the next year’s efforts begin as soon as the kettle stands are put away.  

There is a bit of a grind that is involved in caring for the needs of a community. It can take a toll on a person if one is not careful. Working long hours, often without much rest, proper diet and even appreciation can add to a sense of weariness. Discouragement and disappointment can easily set in if balance is not maintained and the bigger picture of helping is not kept in focus. 

The apostle Paul wrote important words when he encouraged the Galatians,

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9 NIV

Not throwing in the towel and sticking to it are really the best options for staying the course in doing good for others during the holiday season and all year long. When we become weary in mind and body, that can take a toll on our mental attitudes, and that toll can seep into our souls.

Taking time to slow down, breathe, eat properly and pause for prayer and reflection are essential for the caregiver to fight off any “Scrooge-ist” attitudes.  

The world needs more versions of the positive spirit of Scrooge we discover at the end of the story. Do your part to join in to “fight for good” in whatever community you find yourself in this holiday season. Take a few moments to encourage those bell-ringers with a word of kindness and a fistful of change (or dollar bills) dropped in their buckets. Embrace the idea of giving and thinking of others as a year-round activity and attitude of the heart. Get involved in your local Salvation Army center to see what it really takes to bring about a Merry Christmas to all.

At the end of “A Christmas Carol,” Dickens penned a phrase that captivates the spirit of Scrooge. It is certainly a phrase worthy of becoming a personal mantra for us all: “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”