“A lot of retellings of the story and movies leave out the Christ-centered message and the need to serve,” Wilkins said. “It not only preaches against treatment of the poor, it is also a warning about self-centeredness. It's not just about Scrooge and his money; it's about the power he had to get money and his misuse of that power. It's about building relationships with family and nourishing each other. It's about learning from the past, living in the present and looking to the future and understanding they are all connected. The 'Carol' is a song of redemption."
Scrooge’s mighty change
How Scrooge goes from a miserable miser and “Bah Humbug” to “happy as an angel” in one eventful night is well known.
The story reveals that he was left alone as a child. He had a father who ignored him and a sister, who loved him. Nothing is mentioned about a mother.
“We are all sort of like Scrooge,” Wilkins said. “We carry around in our adult hearts the accumulation of the hurts and slights we had as children. That’s one of the crucial elements of the story.”
Before he became a slave to business affairs, Scrooge had a fianc, but Belle returned the ring.
“He was too concerned with what he wanted,” Wilkins said. “To see him move from hurt little boy to a young man who feared the world is just enough detail to say, 'gee, that’s me.' We all need to change our heart."
Marley and service to others
Scrooge was blind to serving others, Bennett said. Scrooge thought reminding his old partner Marley what a great businessman he was might cheer him up when Marley showed himself to Scrooge on Christmas Eve.
“Business!” Marley replied. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.”
“This is one theme I followed in my book,” Bennett said. “People cross our paths for a reason. If we live a self-consumed life, we don’t even see them. But if we open our eyes, opportunities will present themselves for us to serve them and be served.”
The Cratchit Family
While Scrooge is with the ghost of Christmas present, they visit the home of Cratchit, Scrooge’s clerk. Life is desperate. They are poor, but they are happy and inspired by the big heart of Tiny Tim, Wilkins said.
“They have everything they need because of the love and care they have for each other,” Wilkins said.
Scrooge’s only family, a nephew named Fred, invited his uncle to dinner on Christmas. Still with the ghost of Christmas present, Scrooge saw his nephew defend him to his family and friends, despite harsh words Scrooge had spoken earlier to Fred. “He never receives kindness from Scrooge, ever, but Scrooge sees that a family cares for you even when you are a terrible person.”
Ignorance and want
Before departing, the ghost of Christmas present shows Scrooge two demon children — ignorance and want — the reason Dickens wrote the story, Wilkins said.
“The message is ignorance breeds want,” he said. “We have to educate ourselves and each other. It is by education that we eliminate want and improve ourselves. We need to work hard and assist each other. That is the central message of Christmas present.”
Scrooge’s final visit is hosted by the ghost of Christmas yet to come. It’s a chilling foretelling of consequences. Scrooge is able to contrast his lonely, friendless death with that of Tiny Tim.
“Tiny Tim was a sweet little boy with nothing but a crutch, yet he worked to help his family and others be happy. When they remembered him, they were inspired by the kind of life he lived. He left a legacy of love,” Wilkins said. “Scrooge had nothing. People were excited for him to die. We can leave death with love and tenderness in our hearts, depending on the person who died and the decisions we make upon our death.”
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