When asked why the apparition had visited him, the ghost of Jacob Marley cried out in deep anguish, ``Business!'' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ``Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!''
It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.
``At this time of the rolling year,'' the spectre said, ``I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!''
Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the spectre going on at this rate, and began to quake exceedingly.
``Hear me!'' cried the Ghost. ``My time is nearly gone.''
As their conversation ended and the plan for Scrooge to have more “visitors” that night unfolded, Marley let it be known to Scrooge that he had come to visit him and plead with him to take notice of the poor and needy around him.
How often I think of the business and busyness of this time of year, how we can get so caught up in what we want to give to other members of our families. Buying and selling, with unrealistic expectations placed upon us, either real or imagined. The deals we look for and the tendency to put ourselves and our lists before others. What we want before their needs. We ride by the homeless shelters, walk by the Angel Tree, and neglect what we could do for others, for the sake of giving nice and sometimes extravagant things to the ones we love.
Oh yes, we give to charities, our churches, and drop some change into the red bucket; and it is sometimes a nice “out”. I see the homeless on the side of the interstate off-ramps or at the corner by Walmart, sometimes thinking that their signs could be a lie. Maybe they don’t truly deserve a hand-out or a help-up and back onto their feet.
As the guilt settles in, I think to myself “next time, I will help them next time.” The coward in me bargains with the notion that the time to help the least of these is later and not right now! How heartless! I have never been homeless. I have never, not once, not received anything for Christmas. I have had times where the cupboard was very lean, but never gone hungry. And yet I conveniently forget this as I pass them by….
I think sometimes that we are comfortable with thinking that there are places for the unfortunate to go. We pay taxes and the government should help them. But I walk by people every day and do not even notice them – at work, at Walmart and even at church. Do I really care? Does my heart not respond to needs that go unsaid? The Hurting, Broken, Hungry, and Poor rest outside my door, or at least my line of vision as I keep my head down and mind my own business. When I don’t respond, when my purse strings stay tied.
God, please help me to remember the words of Jacob Marley and heed the warnings. As much as I’d like to believe that I am not Scrooge, a pretty good chunk of me is. Father, help me to lift my eyes up, off of my circumstances and onto others in need. I cannot help them all, but I can start to help a few. Please help me to do so!