My 8th grader is reading A Christmas Carol as part of a Language Arts unit. Since I didn’t grow up in this country, I did not read this book when I was in 8th grade (or any grade for that matter). Not a good excuse to have totally missed reading this classic, I know, but it’s the truth.
In order to enhance the learning experience (and since I’d never read the book), we decided to add the 1999 version of this movie (starring Patrick Stewart) to our Netflix queue. We watched it the other evening and it was delightful. At the end, we found ourselves with big grins stretching from ear to ear and in a markedly better mood.
It is such a simple, yet powerful, message. Share with those in need and joy shall be yours. And it’s not just about sharing money. It’s about sharing your time and your spirit.
The following day, we were at one of our favorite cafés and noticed that they had an Angel Tree. I had been trying to think of a good, hands-on giving project for me and Rebecka for the holidays (putting my credit card number into a web form doesn’t quite do it for me – and definitely wouldn’t teach her a thing about giving). I thought about Toys for Tots, but they had already ended their collection. I suggested we go sing carols at a retirement home, but that idea was met with, well, let’s just say “a teenage glare.”
My first instinct was to find an “angel” with requests that wouldn’t be too costly (I am frugal, after all). Then I decided that frugal does not equal stingy and let Rebecka pick one that she could get excited about. We ended up with a wish list from a 17-year-old girl. She wanted an MP3 player, CDs, and a winter coat. So, not cheap. We were to drop the gifts off at the Sears no later than December 9th.
We secured the MP3 player and three CDs at Target the following day. I was going to go to Sears to get the coat and drop everything off yesterday, but the day got away from me. So this afternoon, I drove (through falling snow) to Sears to get the gifts delivered on time. I started looking in the junior section at the $35 – $50 “trendy” coats and then I thought, “I would never let my child go out into the Wisconsin winter with a coat like that…” So I wandered over to the Land’s End down-filled coat collection. This was more like it. I purchased a nice burgundy coat with a faux fur-lined hood and dropped it off with the other items.
As I exited the store, my steps felt lighter. In fact, my whole being felt lighter and my spirit brighter. We had just enabled a teenager somewhere in this city to have a good Christmas. And in return, we had received the joy that comes from helping others.
I’m not writing this to show off my charitable actions. Quite the contrary. I’m writing this to remind you of the great joy that comes with sharing. Sharing of gifts, but also of love, time, and laughter. Being frugal is a good thing, but not if it prevents you from sharing freely with those who have less. For me, that’s the whole reason for being frugal and living simply. Yes, I also want financial independence and a healthy earth, but the underlying driver is to be able to share. This doesn’t make me a better person (trust me!). It’s just what I believe.
Scrooge learned this the hard way (I mean, those spirits were kind of scary!). He learned that holding on to every single penny and cutting costs to the extreme isn’t going to bring you (or anybody else) happiness. Rather, caring for others and sharing the bounty with those in need is what brings real, lasting joy.
Scrooge was better than his word . . . . He became as good a friend, as good a master, as good a man as the good old City knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough in the good old world.
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