The wind breathes hard and the branches shake in response. The green leaves dance in the warm wind and the yellow ones succumb to gravity, falling gracefully onto the car park below, covering the cars with patches of yellow. This is as much of an autumn view I will ever see outside my window, in my part of the world. That is, if I allow myself to be limited by what I see and feel around me, physically. The beauty of reading lies in its magic to transport readers into an entirely different world, and I have experienced winter just by doing that.
I bought A Christmas Carol about two years back during a sale, planning to read this for leisure. Not wanting to make excuses for the long lapse but well, one more book is cleared from my shelf! It is a very short book (100 pages, Collins Classics) with a fairytale-like story to instill in readers some kind of moral. The book does remind me of comics in the sense that it uses exaggerated images that have no place in reality but nevertheless leaves a meaningful message for readers to take away at the closing of the last page. Although this book was meant for the Victorian audience, it is still applicable in today’s world, since inequality will always exist and society will always have a part to play in helping the poorer ones.
The summary of this book is as follows; an old man, named Ebenezer Scrooge, rich in material wealth but poor in humanity, is visited by the ghost of his old friend and three other spirits. The spirits share with him a tour of his past, an omniscience view of the present, and a glimpse of a possible future. Scrooge changes for the better and trades his material wealth for kindness towards others.
Just as Scrooge is reminded of kindness received in his younger days by the spirit, I am reminded (while reading) of one incident that happened two decades back. I was heading home from school and I got off the public bus before my intended destination as I was feeling very unwell. It was a migraine attack but I was not aware that it was one such attack at that point in time. Feeling weak and nauseous, I was sitting down in the middle of the pavement and vomiting into the drain. A woman in her fifties stopped by and brought me to her house which was nearby. If I had more sense then, I would not have followed her home due to safety concerns. But I followed her in my moment of weakness and she gave me water and made me rest. Drifting in and out of sleep and tears, I could hear her comforting me by my side. I had no idea how long I stayed there. Her daughter (an adult) came back and then took a taxi with me to send me home. And yes, her daughter paid for the fare.
That is one kindness I have not been able to repay till now. I tried finding the house after a few days, but I could not remember the location. I tried recalling their faces but I could not picture how they look like. Lame as it sounds, but it is true. I remember very little of the specifics but their kindness is never forgotten. This little kindness may not sound much for many people, but to a person in need, a little would have meant much.
Many of us are probably not as rich as Scrooge has appeared to be, in terms of material wealth, but to do a little charity is definitely within one’s means. I can understand that in our current city life, we constantly have to deal with the challenge of rising costs with our almost stagnant salaries. To beat the inflation, one would have to risk making investment, if not; one will have to watch the hard-earned money losing value in an ordinary savings account. Such is the woe of many city dwellers, especially those classified as “middle-income”. To add on, the high level of hypocrisy that has been exposed over the years, of certain names and organizations that had misappropriated funds meant for charity purposes, is bound to have affected the extent of kindness that people are willing to show.
One friend told me before that when he was a child, on one occasion he had asked his father for money to give to a beggar who had appeared to have no legs, but minutes later, he witnessed the same beggar running on two legs, from the police. This incident had a very negative impact on him, since he views the needy with distrust after that. I believe some of us fall into this same category that shares the similar distrust.
A different perspective was heard from another friend. I asked him about how confident he was, about the money he was donating, that the money would really reach the needy. His reply to me was that it would be good enough if at least a dollar out of the ten dollars donated could reach the needy. It took me a while to digest and assess the worthiness of that donation, but I finally agree that the needy should not be deprived of a chance just because greedy worms exist. Do I still make donations? Yes I do. Do I do volunteer work? Not at the moment, as I am not prepared to make the long term commitment. People tell me that I can stop the volunteer work anytime if I cannot manage, but I would prefer to really go for it on a long term basis. I would want to make it as part of my regular activity and not as a onetime effort.
Scrooge, in the tale of A Christmas Carol, is allowed a glimpse of the possible future, but such a view will not be visible to us, as we are humans living in the real world. What then, do we want to make out of this? One could see it on a surface level as Scrooge’s individual future, or one could derive from Scrooge’s initial end as a lesson learnt on the importance of humanity. After all, we weren’t born to be Robinson Crusoes living in isolation on different islands. A little kindness can, and will go, a long way.
Looking out of my window again, the warm wind picks up momentum, and the yellow leaves continue their falling dance. The seconds pass by and time flies by. Before I know it, I would have aged and so would you. If tomorrow is your last day on earth, what would you have done differently today?