In the wake of a ruinous pandemic and a contentious election, the Christmas season and the approaching new year offer an opportunity to turn the tide on the business of mankind. I am reminded of the words of Jacob Marley to Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol.”
After Scrooge observed that Jacob had always been a good man of business, Marley regretfully reflected on opportunities missed. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
For many of us, 2020 was tough on the business of mankind. We lost loved ones and livelihoods. We fought hard political battles over the direction of our future. But with the turning of the calendar, we have a chance to start fresh. Though we may not be able to immediately stem the tide of illness, economic contraction and political differences, we can invite peace by making it our business to see beyond our own careers, politics, families and hobbies.
In this season of hope and reflection, as we set resolutions for the coming year, we can invite peace as we turn our attention to the multitude of needs around us. Peace isn’t found by focusing on our work or ourselves. Peace comes when we acknowledge through our actions that work and our own self-interest are but drops of water in the oceans of our business.
We talk a lot about returning civility to public discourse, but this effort goes deeper than a choice of words. If we are actively concerned with the well-being of our neighbors, we will make sacrifices on their behalf.
Making mankind our business can be as simple as shoveling snow for neighbors, getting involved in a new charitable organization or reaching out to someone who is lonely and struggling.
As Jacob Marley would teach Ebenezer Scrooge, it’s not enough to mind our own business. After all, Scrooge didn’t set out to actively harm anyone. He focused only on pursuits that would enrich himself. The lesson brought to him by the three spirits suggested his focus should be on improving the lives of other people.
In the words of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, “There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say ... Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round ... as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
In order to move forward and heal from the wounds of 2020, we should relearn the old but timeless lesson from “A Christmas Carol.” Dickens offers an appealing alternative to the pain and contention that have characterized 2020. “It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
This sacred time of year is the perfect time to renew our efforts to love and serve our fellow men, to relieve suffering, and to lift the afflicted. To close 2020, may we work together to turn the tide of sorrow and hostility through a wave of charity and love. Merry Christmas and may God bless you all.
Chris Stewart represents Utah’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.