Saturday, December 18, 2010
Caroling With Dickens
I’ve been reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol again for the umpteenth time, and this book never gets old. Never. It’s a masterpiece, and Dickens himself was really happy with it. He paid a lot out of his own pocket to have it specially bound and illustrated, then he set the price really low so low income people could afford to buy a copy. Which means he made very little profit on the release.
But it was a passion for him because it was an expression of his heart.
When Dickens was twelve years old, his Dad and family were put into a debtors prison. Only young Charles avoided prison, because they put him to work in a factory that made boot polish. It was nasty work, especially for a twelve year old. But it gave Charles Dickens a compassion for the poor and for children that was rare in his lifetime.
Hard times really do shape our character.
There’s that scene early on in A Christmas Carol, where the man collecting for the poor is mistreated by Scrooge. They want a little donation from the skin flint, but he refuses, of course. And Scrooge tells them the poor will have to go to the “prisons” or the “workhouses” if they want help. So the man replies by saying, “'Many can't go there; and many would rather die.”
Here’s what I think: When Dickens wrote that, he knew what he was talking about. I think it’s how he felt about it. The shame and helplessness he had been through as a twelve year old boy was still with him. He had experienced true poverty first hand, and his response was great personal generosity to the poor and the broken, throughout the rest of his life.
What this makes me think of is the reality that empathy is often earned through hard times. Generosity is sometimes learned through poverty. It’s when we experience our own hard times that we learn how important it can be to show kindness to others.
At least, that’s my experience.
Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2010