This time every year I re-read the classic Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. We all know the story: miserly and unlikeable Ebenezer Scrooge treats his employee, Bob Cratchit, like a slave, pays him very little, and only lets him have Christmas Day off after chastising him for his selfishness. Cratchit has a wife and kids, and his youngest has a disability. They can barely afford a roof over their head and daily meals. One Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the spirit of his former partner, Jacob Marley. He’s told to expect the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
We learn that, at one time, Scrooge’s life was on track for him to marry, be successful in business, have friends, and possibly children. But that promise, compared to his current reality, is the lesson that we, as readers, come back to, year after year. I think that Jacob Marley’s ghost is the saddest character in all of fiction. He died on a Christmas Eve, and for seven years he has been doomed to roam the earth in chains. His life was motivated by greed and selfishness. He was oblivious to the impact of charity and community. Now for eternity, he must witness the suffering of others and be unable to help. Their futures won’t change, and neither will his. He shows up on the Christmas Eve anniversary of his death to offer Scrooge a chance to avoid the same fate.
The visits from the next three spirits will give Ebenezer Scrooge a short window of time to make a monumental decision about his own destiny. The first Ghost reminds him of his youth and of happier times shared with friends at Christmas. The second Ghost gives a stark view of how Scrooge’s life choices have created the life situation for the Cratchit family and for others around him. After a terrifying time with the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, Scrooge’s epiphany is “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends . . .But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.” You know the rest of the story, and “God bless us, every one!”
As I plan for 2020 and I look back at 2019, I try to equate all actions and their consequences. Certain actions brought success. Certain actions were mistakes. I want to own both, respect both, and go into a new year with some humility about things I might do differently. My choices do affect my family, my friends, my business associates, and my community. So thank you, Charles Dickens—your message is as relevant now is it was 176 years ago today (December 19, 1843.)
Happy Holidays to all!
Jason Newburg, 260.243.5100, ext 2101, is the founder and owner of Aptica LLC. This IT management and support company has been serving small to medium-sized businesses for 18 years in the region that includes Angola, South Bend, and Fort Wayne, IN, Battle Creek, MI, and Toledo OH.