Open your heart freely, give to others

By Philip Case, Published:

“…when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices…”

– From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Early in “stave one” of Charles Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol, two businessmen enter Ebenezer Scrooge’s austere suite of offices. His nephew Fred is leaving, having just received a tongue lashing by his uncle for his eloquent speech about the meaning of Christmas.

Their purpose, these businessmen, is to illicit funds from the miserly old man to help the poor and homeless at Christmas. The plea, delivered with sincerity and anticipation of a gift, unfortunately fits as uncomfortably today as it did in 19th century London.

From the book, published in December of 1843:

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

Following an exchange with Scrooge who, of course, has no intention of contributing a dime to anyone’s welfare but his own, the gentleman makes a final heartfelt plea to a man whose heart has long ago gone cold:

“A few of us are endeavoruring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.”

I think it’s those last words that stick with me most as I open the mail and receive request after request for a contribution, and when I look around our town at the helping organizations that rely primarily on contributions to do what they do, day in and day out, I realize the need locally.

Places like the soup kitchen/men’s homeless shelter on Second Street where meals are faithfully served daily by those volunteers who care and men have a warm place to sleep, at the Salvation Army, the Sunshine Center, Coats for Kids, ROSM, the food drives conducted almost weekly now at our community stores by clubs and churches to keep the emergency food pantry operating … no doubt I’ve missed something.

“…when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.”

Last week I held up for your consideration the many programs in our community designed to heighten the Christmas Spirit in our own hearts. That list is still long and appears on the back page of today’s Spectrum section. I bring it to your attention again.

Perhaps a children’s pageant might move you; maybe carols sung by a choir may set you to humming, or the lights that brighten the year’s darkest days bring light into your soul. That’s all wonderful.

The question then: Is it enough just to make merry ourselves or does our merriment need to become tangible in what we might do for others?

Each of us answers that question in his or her own way – or if we’re like Scrooge before his “awakening” we choose not to answer it all. (The gentlemen were, you’ll recall, pleasantly surprised at Scrooge’s sudden generosity when they encountered him after his night of “visitations.”)

During the course of the upcoming week, I’m going to help make it easy for you by compiling a list of “helping organizations” in our community, complete with an address where you can send a contribution if you feel moved because you care, not because you feel as if you must. We will publish it next Sunday, maybe sooner.

I call on you involved with such “helping” groups like those mentioned above to send me contact information for contributions of money, goods and/or services. This is Our Hometown Newspaper and we want to be found – at least I hope we do – taking care of our own!

My email is pcase@state-journal.com; my phone number is 227-4556, ext. 258 or drop the information by the office, 1216 Wilkinson Blvd.

I would hope the list can be comprehensive and complete and that we can do something to spread the joy of this season.

Let me wrap this up with another quote from A Christmas Carol. This is from the parting speech Nephew Fred made before the gentlemen entered:

“…I have always thought of Christmas time … as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

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