A thankful heart

Perhaps there is no better-known character in prose fiction than Ebenezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Since the novella was first published in 1843, calling someone a “Scrooge” — meaning a miserly curmudgeon who is only interested in themselves and the bottom line — has worked its way into our everyday lexicon.

In Dickens’ novel, set in Victorian London, Scrooge is visited by three spirits — the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come — on Christmas Eve.

Scrooge re-lives his life to rediscover what the world would be like if he was never born as the Ghosts endeavor to help him change his misguided ways.

I don’t regularly have a Scroogelike personality but I’m sure we all have felt like him — at least for a moment — during this decidedly stressful year of 2020.

At times, I’ve even felt like one of the spirits who visit him during the night; watching life happen from a distance and not getting too close to people.

“Bah humbug!” indeed.

In the end, Scrooge emerges as a new man, full of generosity and goodwill to humanity.

He even gives Tiny Tim a shilling to buy the “prize Turkey” in the Poulterer’s storefront.

Dickens’ novella was published on Dec. 19, 1843 and its 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve.

The story of “A Christmas Carol” has been told and retold in various forms for decades.

I think I first became aware of Ebenezer Scrooge through Alastair Sim’s 1951 version of “A Christmas Carol” which aired on television.

Then there was animated special “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” in 1962, regarded as the first Christmas television special, all the way to Bill Murray’s comedic version titled “Scrooged.”

The story of re-living one’s life is also a major part of 1946’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey.

Another one of my favorites is “A Muppet Christmas Carol” starring Jim Henson’s Muppets and Michael Caine as Scrooge.

Kermit the Frog plays the role of Bob Cratchit as he implores Scrooge for Christmas Day off from working in his depressing office so he can spend the day with his family, which includes Tiny Tim (played by Kermit’s Muppet nephew, Robin).

When Scrooge completes his emotional makeover in the movie, he sings “Thankful Heart”:

“With an open heart that is wide awake
I do make this promise: Every breath I take Will be used now to sing your praise
And to beg you to share my days With a loving guarantee that even if we part
I will hold you close in a thankful heart”

Hopefully, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ this year offers the opportunity to meditate on the importance of a thankful heart.

“God bless us, every one!” said Tiny Tim.

I’ll end 2020 in this space the same way I have since 2016, with the final lines of my favorite Christmas poem, “E.B. White’s Christmas.”
It was published in The New Yorker on Dec. 20, 1952 and is written by the author of beloved children’s books “Stuart Little” and “Charlotte’s Web.”

Once again, it’s worth a Google search to read the entire poem.
And last, we greet all skaters on small natural ponds at the edge of woods toward the end of afternoon. Merry Christmas, skaters! Ring, steel! Grow red, sky! Die down, wind! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good morrow!

Have a blessed Christmas and a healthy 2021!