(From Love & Common Sense, Short Stories from Around the World to Challenge Your Mind and Ignite Your Compassion, by Dr. James W. Jackson, p. 165).
I love the city of Rochester located where the Thames and Medway rivers meet and flow into the sea southwest of old London town. On the docks where Henry VIII once anchored his Royal Navy fleet, we operated the first of Project C.U.R.E.'s warehouses in England. Anna Marie and I spent a good amount of time in Rochester, the hometown of Charles Dickens. While in Rochester we fell in love again with the writings of the renowned cultural reformer. As we walked the quaint streets and ate in the local pubs we would imagine the different characters and the locations described in his novels. We even spent one Sunday in Charles Dickens' home on Gad Hill then visited areas he had described in the city of London.
When Dickens describes Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, I live and breathe the story. I think that early in my career in the investment business in Colorado I met "Ebenezer Scrooge" several different times. "Oh! But he was a tight-fisted at the grindstone. Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self contained, and solitary as an oyster."
"Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, 'My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?'"
But Marley had come to give Ebenezer a second chance at life. "Bah! Humbug!"
Marley and the Spirits of Past, Present and Future literally scared the hell out of Ebenezer. Scrooge pleaded with the Ghost, "Answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be only? . . . "
"Spirit," he cried, tight clutching to its robe, "hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been. . . . I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the past, present and the future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."
Ebenezer was awoke to the fact that he still had the precious gift of time in which he could make his amends. "I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo there! Whoop! Hallo!"
In the end, "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 . . . His own heart laughed and that was quite enough for him."
As I walked down the narrow streets of old Rochester, I joined Ebenezer in his unspeakable delight, that I, too, had been given an undeserved opportunity at a second chance.
Let's spend a few more minutes learning from Ebenezer Scrooge and his decision to inject some good old fashioned virtue into the intersection of culture and economics. An investment from his personal market basket of virtues including charity, humility, and kindness, instead of the usual response of greed, wrath, and pride, in the end paid out remarkable dividends of goodness. That investment literally changed Scrooge's world as well as the world of Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, and hundreds of others.
Those who choose to invest virtue into the common affairs taking place at the intersections of life reap rich inner rewards by being able to personally see others gathered at the curbside becoming better off as a result.Suddenly, the words of wisdom spoken by Jacob Marley take on even deeper degrees of truth: "Business, mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business. CHARITY, MERCY, FORBEARANCE, and BENEVOLENCE were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business."
Next Week: Systems Matter
(Research ideas from Dr. Jackson's new writing project on Cultural Economics)
© Dr. James W. Jackson
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