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A Story for What Ails Us

Posted by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce on

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

© 2019 Gregory F. Augustine Pierce

This blog is an attempt to convince community leaders and organizers that writing can be another tool in their power toolbox. It offers examples and suggestions on how to write both artfully and effectively. I have been a publisher for over thirty years and a community leader and organizer for almost fifty years, so the combination of these two topics is a natural for me, as in this piece.

A Christmas Carol was written by Charles Dickens in 1843 and is one of the most beloved stories in the world.

Unfortunately, it is so familiar that most of us miss its basic message when we see it on stage, screen, or television each Christmas season. That message? Mean-spiritedness and miserliness make us miserable…but it is not too late for us to change.

Ebenezer Scrooge is the perfect character for most Americans today. He could be any one of us: cranky, disillusioned, wanting to be left alone to stew in our own strongly-held juices about what is wrong with the world and just about everyone else. We are done trying to help, trying to do the right thing, trying to make the world a better place! Are there no prisons, are there no poorhouses that can make all our problems go away (or at least hide from our sight)?

Like Scrooge, we need something to get us out of our funk. We need to be visited by three ghosts: The Ghost of Who We Were, the Ghost of Who We Are, and the Ghost of Who We Could Be.

We as Americans used to be better than we have been recently. Oh, sure, we have been worse, too, but there was a certain civility to our affairs that most of us at least striven for most of the time. We didn’t always think that for me to be up, someone else had to be down. As a nation we said, with Emma Lazarus at the Statue of Liberty, “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses longing to be free.” At our best, we were capable of kindness and generosity and selflessness. Is that not the Ghost of Who We Were?

And the Ghost of Who We Are, is that not still alive as well? We still catch glimpses of ourselves as we really want to be: people who haven’t given up, who still fight the good fight, who are out there every day working for the common good and standing for the whole. We see it especially in some of our young people, and in some of our elders, and even in some of us in the middle. They are the people we really admire, the ones we still wish we could be like, the ones who refuse to buy into our new culture of confrontation and denigration and lowered expectations, the ones who don’t think it is all about money and personal power and hatred of anyone who disagrees with them. That Spirit is still among us.

As is the Ghost of Who We Could Be. Like Scrooge, the dark shadows we see in our future are not necessarily those of things that will be, but only of things that might be. We still have time to change them. It can still be Christmas Day when we wake up. But wake up we must. And when we wake up, we then have to act differently in our public and private lives.

“You’re an old Scrooge!” we say when we really want to put someone down (which seems to be more and more often these days). But really, the message of Dickens’ story is that we all need to become more like the post-ghostly-visits Scrooge who “became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

Read the introduction to ACTA's edition of A Christmas Carol by master story-teller John Shea.

Gregory F. Augustine Pierce is the publisher of ACTA Publications in Chicago and the author of many books, including The World as It Should Be and Spirituality at Work. He runs “intensive immersion” workshops on writing for specific kinds of writers, such as the “Writing for Community Leaders and Organizers.” For more information, contact him at or 800-397-2282.

Related Titles

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and introduced by John Shea (Supplies Limited)
Charles Dickens, Illuminated by The Message
Starlight: Beholding the Christmas Miracle All Year Long (Supplies Limited)
John Shea’s Christmas Stories
And a wide variety of Christmas CDs