Well before English author Charles Dickens first published “A Christmas Carol” in 1843, the season had been filled with stories of transformation. But Dickens’ story of Christmas redemption surpassed all its predecessors, becoming an instant classic. Ebeneezer Scrooge’s change of heart is one of the most famous in all English literature.
Theodor Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”) penned his own instant classic of this kind: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” In this 1957 children’s book, written in characteristic Dr. Seuss poetic form, The Grinch—a bitter, grouchy creature—is bent on forcing his perspective on the Whos of Whoville. He steals their presents, food, and trimmings, feeling sure this will destroy their annoying Christmas spirit. But as Christmas morning dawns and the Whos sing, hug, join hands, and celebrate as usual, the Grinch has a change of heart! It “grows three sizes,” he becomes 12 times stronger—and he comes sledding down his mountain to return everything to the Whos and join their celebration.
Ever wonder if pre-transformational Mr. Scrooges exist today? Are there modern, unrepentant Grinches who want to steal the joy of Christmas?
Sadly, there seem to be plenty of unreformed Scrooges and Grinches in today’s world—but we must remember that in the stories of both these characters, a Christmas transformation blossomed.
Scrooge learned from his supernatural visitors that Christmas is a state of mind and heart to be kept year round. The Grinch, dining with the Whos, pondered the idea that Christmas comes into the heart when love triumphs over hate. It is in the hope of similar transformations for real people that we celebrate the birth of Christ with prayer, feasting, and good cheer.
Christmas is found throughout the year whenever we appreciate that everyone has been lovingly, equally created in the image of God. It is present when we comprehend that the divine gifts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness exist for all humankind.
The measure of humanity, initiated on the first Christmas, is not how successfully we engage in individual pursuits of happiness. Rather, the measure is the compassion we show to others, the help we give them as we all pursue happiness. That divine measure does not include the frequency of our falls. We must pick ourselves up after each fall, dust off our hands, and zestfully continue the pursuit. How else can we lift up others who stumble?
The measure of humanity is the transformed human heart. Like Scrooge at the end of Dickens’s account, may we be filled with generosity for the Christmas circumstances of others. Like the Grinch, may our hearts and strength grow along with the knowledge that giving is more blessed than receiving.
And more than anything else, may we remember the real reason for the season. As Tiny Tim said: “God bless us every one.” Merry Christmas to all!
John D. Ragan, an Oak Ridge Republican, is State Representative from District 33.