The Dickens You Say
Tim Leeming
Tuesday December 20 2016, 7:45 PM

Legendtorial for December 20, 2016

Yes, this is a racing history radio show.  We all know that.  However, I wanted to pause here, these five days before Christmas, to talk about the spirit of the season, or, perhaps more appropriate the "Ghosts of Christmases" past and to come.

Charles Dickens has always been one of my favorite writers, even though I thought I would die when trying to get through Silas Marner back in Junior High.  In his stories, he created so many characters that live on in the memories of all who ever read his work.  David Copperfield and Oliver Twist were as real to me in school as the friends sitting around me in class. 

This time of year, of course, our minds turn to one of Dickens’s most famous works, "A Christmas Carol".  Actually, the name Dickens gave to the novelette was "A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas".  The memorable characters of Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and, of course, Ebenezer Scrooge are forever etched into the minds of those of us who read the book or have watched one, or more, of the several adaptations presented in movies.

Although not an autobiography of Dickens’s life, much of what is related in the book actually applies to Dickens.  His father WAS imprisoned for debt when Charles was 12.  Charles was forced to work in a "blacking factory" with many other kids.  It was there he learned of the plight of poor children, which would impact his life profoundly.  From this experience, Charles became an activist for children when he became an adult and was moderately successful in his efforts with childhood labor reform in London.

There is no doubt the "Scrooge" has, for a long time, applied to mean, stingy, selfish men.  To be called "Scrooge" was, and is to most, an insult demeaning whatever status the person so called believed he has achieved.  I once felt that way, but no more.  I would proudly accept the title of "Scrooge" and let me tell you why.

If you've ever read the book, or seen one of the movies, you know Scrooge was all about money and all about himself.  When approached to contribute to poor children so they could have food from Christmas, his response was "Are there no workhouses, are there no prisons?"  He simply didn't care.

Then, over Christmas Eve, he was visited by three ghosts, Christmases past, present, and future.  By far, the most feared was Christmas future as the ghost showed him the tombstone of Ebenezer Scrooge while he was being buried with nothing but hate surrounding his body by the gravediggers doing their work.  It was by this insight into his future that the selfish curmudgeon Ebenezer changed.

When he awoke in the morning, he was a different man.  He joyfully had the prize turkey purchased and delivered to the Cratchit household.  He even went to visit and learned of Tiny Tim's health problems.  The story ends with the words that from that day forward Ebenezer kept Christmas in his heart every day of the year.  The man Ebenezer became after the night of the three ghosts is the man I would like to be.  I have been far too outspoken on subjects which, when viewed in the overall scheme of life, are meaningless.  It didn't take visits from three ghosts to teach me that lesson, just spending time with one old time racer with deep connections to the sport.  I am thankful for that friendship and for his willingness to overlook the brashness of a "Scrooge" before the ghosts encounters in our friendship.  Call me Scrooge.  I love it.  For what Scrooge was is certainly comparable to what I was, but now, hopefully, I can become the Scrooge AFTER the ghosts.  What an honor I perceive that to be.

In ending, remember this, if nothing else.  Some of the finest words ever written were spoken by Angels to shepherds in the fields.  "Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.  For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord".  While I am not the Reverend Brother to whom Jeff referred last week, I am a man on a mission now to be kinder and more caring and to spread the word of love for all.  What I have learned in the past two months, especially about the homeless around my neighborhood, makes me want to make a difference.  When my Christmas future comes and I am no longer here, all I really need people to remember is that I cared.  Merry Christmas everyone, and God bless us everyone.

Thanks for that line, Charles.  Means a lot to be able to say that with sincerity.

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