You heard me ... be a Scrooge!

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Let’s put all of the mortar and bricks away for one day

By John Pawlak

Back in high school, I could barely put a verb and noun together without hurting myself.  That is, me not was two good very in the English.  Okay, maybe not quite that bad, but I did have trouble keeping my grades up in the low C’s.  (I hope my students aren’t reading this!)
This is my 100th column and it seems fitting that it address the best of things, and what better timing than the holiday season to inspire me?  The advent of a new year, new hope, new aspirations, and new challenges.  And so, I’d like to call upon everyone to be a Scrooge this year.
Yeah, you heard me right.  Be a Scrooge!
Dicken’s “Christmas Carol” portrays forgiveness and charity as uncommon human traits.  Scrooge was a living consolidation of the world as we see it today, full of greed, contempt, hate, and indifference to the needs of others.
That’s only a book, right?  In the real world, heroes abound.  We idolize celebrities as they make millions by selling songs with lyrics that are too indecent to be published.  We pay tens of millions to people to bounce or throw a ball.  As companies outsource jobs and lay off millions of workers, CEOs take in fifty million dollar bonuses.  We are a nation of extremes, city sidewalks crowded with homeless veterans and golf courses crowded with uber-rich executives.
But people who are forgiving and understanding?  How many statues of Mother Theresa or Gandhi have you ever seen in a town square?
Yeah, yeah, I know.  Digressing.  Back to poor old Ebeneezer.  Scrooge was a nasty old curmudgeon, vile in his disdain for happiness and harmony.  He spit at children, hoarded his money, and gloated over the suffering of others.  This is how he is remembered, his name synonymous with greed and contempt.
And yet, Scrooge changed his ways and became “a model of generosity and kindness”.  He saved Tiny Tim’s life and was praised as “knowing how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”  Scrooge became an icon of all that is good in humankind, a living spirit of good will. The other people in the story? His housekeeper ripped the clothes off his dead body, tore down his bed curtains, and sold them.  The undertaker pawned cuff links off his corpse. Fellow businessmen laughed about his funeral, saying that they would attend only if they were given a free lunch.  
These are the “good” people?
Why is Scrooge’s name used as an insult?  To be called a Scrooge, one must be generous, kind, and loving.  To be called a Scrooge, one must embrace the spirit of Christmas.  Well, Christmas is once again upon us and so it’s time for us to be Scrooges.
People making minimum wage work two jobs just to keep their families fed.  As unemployment ravages our nation, CEOs collect huge bonuses for outsourcing.  As illegal aliens tend our gardens and sit our children, we spend billions building Berlin-style walls.  As gays fight for our liberties, self-righteous hate groups chant vile slogans at their military funerals.  As we still suffer the effects of the Gulf oil spill, politicians yell “Drill baby drill”.
One day a year, perhaps we can be Scrooges?  Maybe we can close our prejudices and prides and suspicions and open our hearts to the needs of others.  One day a year, maybe we can look for ways to elevate others rather than hold them down.  Just maybe we can be as good and kind and generous as Scrooge.
But rather than asking ourselves what we can do to help others this holiday season, maybe we should ask ourselves why this question isn’t asked every day of the year.  If the best of mankind truly lives in our hearts, why is it given parole only during the holidays?
Let’s put the mortar and bricks away for a day and stop building walls on our borders and in our hearts.  It feels good to be good, to treat others as we would want them to treat us.
Be a Scrooge and have a wonderful holiday!
 John Pawlak
 Los Alamos Columnist