A Christmas Carol:
The Crucial Challenges for all of us today
The crucial challenge for man: To thrive financially yet retain a sense of humanity.
The crucial challenge for a business: To be economically world class, yet allow the employees to enjoy their lives daily.
These challenges are not impossible. In the end, we are limited only by ourselves.
A Christmas Carol:
The Crucial Challenges for all of us today
Discussion and explanation:
All men are created equal
Now let us examine the universal truths which Dickens shows through A Christmas Carol. Perhaps the most basic truth is that we are human. Each of us have weaknesses, just as each of us have strengths, but no man is intrinsically better than another. Is Scrooge a greater man than those on the street because Scrooge worked hard to develop a successful business? Is crippled Tiny Tim a greater man than Scrooge because the boy knows more about love? The truth is that each of us has great abilities, and each of us has shortcomings. Each man can work within his limitations, and surpass his shortcomings, but no man is intrinsically superior.
Family values and love
Another truth Dickens shows in his story is that love is important. Bob Cratchit knew love, and that love made him happy. Further notice that this love made him happy in spite of the hardships in his life. Scrooge had no love - not from others and certainly not in his own heart - and he was unhappy. Notice he was even unhappy in spite of his financial security. How well these examples apply to our own lives! People who experience love inevitably discover that such love brings happiness. People who never experience love often spend a lifetime searching for something, only to discover that happiness seems beyond their grasp.
One type of love Dickens shows us in A Christmas Carol is family love. Dickens in 1843 England held the same values which we immortalized in the American television shows 100 years later, and the same values which we refer to today as family values. Do families like these really exist? Of course they do! There are families all around us like the Cratchits, families who laugh and love regardless of circumstances. There are fathers just like Bob Cratchit who know that loving ones children is not a threat to a mans masculinity.
Dickens also uses the Cratchit family to teach us that a family does not have to be ideal to follow family values. Although many people have come to view families such as the Cleavers on television as the ideal family, families are not limited to that representation. The television families were appealing because not only were they kind, moral people, but they lived in a comfortable house, and the father made a decent salary. Yet, this ideal was not so with the Cratchits. The Cratchits were kind, moral people without much material comfort at all. And, unlike the Cleavers, the Cratchits had crippled Tiny Tim to take care of. And what of Tiny Tim? Even with his ailment, Tim himself remained cheery, and Bob remained loving throughout.
Why, Dickens even talked about love in a dysfunctional family! Good ol Fred lived in a dysfunctional family, with Uncle Scrooge as the main loony. Yet, even when Scrooge acted unkindly, Fred continued to treat Scrooge as family and continued to invite him to dinner every year.
Aim to be humane and caring
Dickens also tells us as truth that we should strive to be humane and caring. When Jacob Marley says that mankind is our business, he is telling us that we should live our lives showing charity and benevolence to our fellow man. It is an obligation and a duty. In addition, Dickens shows that people are happier when they care for someone else. Bob Cratchit was happy caring for his family, and Scrooge become happy again when he began caring again. Indeed, caring for someone is a liberating experience for the man who gives as well as the for the man who receives.
Remember, much of the truths Dickens shows is about love and laughter. Love makes people happy, no matter how little wealth they acquire. Laughter makes life a sheer joy, regardless of circumstances.
However, no matter how important love and laughter are, there are always other considerations to factor in. We must always be financially intelligent, for money is the medium by which we gain food and shelter. We must also be politically astute, for, in our world, politics is a reality which can promote or prohibit a man from acquiring the money he deserves. Scrooge became financially successful precisely because he was financially intelligent and politically astute. Like Scrooge, we, too, must be financially intelligent and politically astute if we wish to become financially successful.
In this regard, Scrooge was correct in his beliefs. Scrooge was correct in referring to the government institutions, already paid for by his taxes, rather than giving money from his pocket. Scrooge became financially successful precisely because he was financially wise and politically astute; the people in the institutions mentioned would be wise to understand this reality.
Scrooge was also correct in countering Belle, who was a bit naive. She may have been able to live a life without concern for money, but most people can not. If Scrooge had not become wise in the ways of the world, he might have become destitute himself.
Yet, as we again recall the importance of love, we realize that money should remain a means to support oneself, not as a replacement for love. Also, even in the worst economic depressions, a man who is more financially secure should be charitable to those who are temporarily destitute.
In any era there exists a tension between love and undesirable realities. If we examine history, we see that this tension tends to push people to live out one of two paths, and we see these paths clearly demonstrated through Dickens characters. Specifically, we see that those people who thrive financially often become cold and inhumane, while those people who value humanity are often not tough enough or astute enough to thrive financially.
If we wish to learn from A Christmas Carol, and if we want to learn from history, then we must learn to seek the middle ground rather than the two most common paths.
The crucial challenge
Here, then, is where we meet our crucial challenge. We can not deny the realities of life. However, while thriving financially we should not neglect the human qualities of our existence. Therefore, the most important challenge for every man in every era is the following: We must be fiscally and politically astute, yet maintain our love and sense of humanity.
In my view, this is the perennial challenge, one that can not be emphasized enough. We must pursue this challenge, study the issues, and share what we have learned. Many of the later chapters in Making America Great are designed to meet this challenge.
Getting back to A Christmas Carol, we notice that Dickens did not offer ideas of how Scrooge could have become financially successful yet not lose his sense of humanity. This is a challenge for each of us to solve. Neither did Dickens offer examples of how Fezziwig was able to make a successful business and still have fun. Again, we must pursue that solution ourselves.
Meeting these challenges is not impossible. For example, take the concept of Fezziwig as the joyous yet thriving businessman. You think this is completely fiction? Take a look at the actor-director Michael Landon. As a businessman, Landon was very financially successful, yet he genuinely cared for his crew. Although he worked his crew hard, he provided an atmosphere where the crew laughed and had fun. Yes indeed, the character Fezziwig has a real counterpart in Michael Landon.
Then there are consulting groups, such as the Management Development Systems Group of Texas, who have been showing companies for years how a humane business naturally results a more profitable business.
Thus, this challenge is not impossible. We can allow love, laughter, and humanity in a company while becoming in financially prosperous. We can maintain our sense of values while pursuing our personal pleasures. Living in todays world, we may find these challenges difficult, but we must never view them as impossible. Come join us while we change our worlds just as Ebenezer changed his, and join us as we make Fezziwigs philosophy our own.