Written by Rachel Clapp-Smith
Reflecting on the Past, Present, and Future
At this time of year, I often think about what a genius Charles Dickens was. Chances are that in December of 1843, he was not intending to create a story that would serve as an annual intervention to spark reflection and introspection, but its ubiquity has achieved just that. People who have never read the original novel know the story. I highly recommend reading it!
So why are we so drawn to this story? It has to do with what the story accomplishes. Scrooge transforms his identity in a single night. Wow! Who does that? No one. But, figuratively, it can be done. People can transform from mean, miserly, and grouchy to generous, joyous, and kind. How? Through reflection. That’s how transformative reflection can be. But most of us find it difficult and time consuming. It’s difficult because we have to face the aspects of our character for which we are not proud. It can be painful to accept that we have hurt people or not been there for family and friends when they needed us the most, or that we played political games with a co-worker. But our ghosts don’t only bring the negative to our consciousness, they also bring the positive. Furthermore, reflection is not merely an act of thinking about our own behavior, but also considering the influence of our behavior on others. Let’s think about Scrooge’s past, present, and future for himself and his stakeholders.
When Scrooge looks back on his past, he sees many layers and many emotions. A sister who he loved, and he is reminded of how cold he had been to his nephew earlier that day (family domain), a former boss, Fezziwig, who he admired for his good humor and ability to bring joy to others with only small financial gestures (work domain). He is also reminded of the time when he chose work over his fiancé, the turning point at which he became a lonely man. In this reflection we see role models, difficult decisions, joy, regret, loss, gain, etc.
When Scrooge considers his present, he reflects on how others see him, and the prognosis is disturbing. Bob Cratchet’s family is happy, despite their ailing son, Tim, and the lack of funds to make a proper holiday meal or to get proper healthcare for Tim. They are joyous to be together, but have no kind words for Mr. Scrooge in their holiday toast. Similarly, his nephew and his guests poke fun at Scrooge and his miserly ways, laughing, and yet, feeling sad for Scrooge.
Finally, upon considering the possible future for himself and that of the Cratchet family, Scrooge realizes that he has the resources and power to adjust the future. What he does in the present can change the possible future. So, what does he do? He transforms his identity. He realizes there is still time to save Tim and himself. In short, as a leader, Scrooge sat on the sidelines and took care of no one, not even himself. But, after reflecting on his past, the present of others, and glimpsing into the future, he realized he could lead in very different ways and have a positive impact.
Does reflection create such extreme changes in people? Well, no. It takes time. All of us have a story and most of us want it to have a happy ending. But we have to face our ghosts, both good and bad, to build an accurate narrative. What’s your Christmas Carol? What transformation will you make this season?