Three days before Christmas my wife, son, and I drove over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco to see the American Conservatory Theater’s production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. We’d seen the play many times before, but were anxious to join all the other revelers in the spirit of the season. It was an exuberant production, and we immediately got caught up in the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s redemption from humbugging miser to generous benefactor.
There is one scene from the performance that has stuck in my mind ever since that night. It’s the episode where the first of three Spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Past, visits Scrooge and takes him back to, among other places, the warehouse of Old Fezziwig where Scrooge had once been an apprentice. The jovial Old Fezziwig closes the warehouse for a Christmas party, and everyone, including the young Ebenezer and his first love, Belle, dance and laugh and sing, experiencing all the joys of the season.
As Scrooge observes all this merriment, he is visibly transformed. Both saddened by his own current state and overjoyed to be young again, he joins in the fun. At one point there is this interaction between the Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge:
"A small matter," said the Ghost, "to make these silly folks so full of gratitude."
"Small!" echoed Scrooge.
The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said,
"Why! Is it not! He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?"
"It isn't that," said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. "It isn't that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune."
Go back. Reread the last paragraph again…..
Old Fezziwig’s power was “in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant,” and yet these were the very things that made service light and pleasurable and employee’s happy. Don’t we all possess this kind of power? Don’t we all have the capacity to make someone else’s day light, pleasurable and happy by word or a look?
In 1843 Charles Dickens didn’t have a clue about the global economy or the wireless Web or social networking. But he sure knew what uplifted people’s spirits. It wasn’t anything more sophisticated than a laugh, a kind word, a caring gesture, and a joyful heart.
As we ring in this New Year, let’s all resolve to employ the power of Old Fezziwig, the power that lies in each of us to make others’ lives significant and fulfilling.
Posted by Jim Kouzes