“To start a boy and three-and-six pence a week. Tsk! It’s typical of my nephew. No wonder he’s never been able to put by a penny.”
“Perhaps he’s put by more than money.”
-Ebenezer Scrooge & The Ghost of Christmas Present, A Christmas Carol
1984, starring George C. Scott
From my favorite Christmas movie of all. 😉
This exchange immediately follows when Scrooge’s employee, Bob Cratchitt, has relayed an offer from Scrooge’s nephew, Fred Hollywell, to his own son. Fred remembered that Bob’s eldest son is approaching working age, and, ever eager to do some good, offers the boy his first job, and for quite a reasonable wage. Scrooge, ever the miser, is disappointed by this, as money has been his greatest priority for most of his life. The Ghost, however, knows that there are other things, more important things, than money.
Scrooge’s reaction is somewhat hilarious, considering that his nephew lives in a fine house with fine things, including servants, giving his beautiful wife wonderful presents and hosting enjoyable parties for his friends and family. He’s clearly not living in poverty, so to say he’s never “put by a penny” is a bit of a stretch. No, Fred merely hasn’t hoarded it as his uncle has, who, despite having so much money, doesn’t do a thing with it. He doesn’t even make himself comfortable with it, let alone does any good with it.
Even more hilarious is when Scrooge soon comments on the meager size of the goose featured in his employee’s Christmas feast, and the Ghost replies, with some anger, “It’s all Bob Cratchitt can afford!” Direct hit, that.
Fred is, in short, a man who knows that the value of money is not found in keeping it, but in using it.
And use it he does, quite effectively, judging by his comfortable circumstances. His generosity isn’t a financial flaw, it’s a strength. And he’s also wise enough to not just throw money at a problem and expect things to get better. Sure, he’s going to help the impoverished family of a friend, but the boy he will employ will be earning it, learning about work and growing stronger and more responsible as a result, accepting generosity but retaining, and growing, his dignity.
That is no small thing for Fred to do, just by spending or, rather, investing a little money. He’s doing good with what he has. And he does this simply because he loves his fellow man more than he loves his gold.
The Ghost has the right of this, of course. Money is just a physical thing, and you can’t take it with you when you die. But you can take the good things you have done with that money.
Myself, whatever my means, I hope to do good in the world with it.
Of course I’ve fantasized about what I would do if I were suddenly super rich, and, alas, not all of it has been selfless. I know one can get lost in the dizzy haze of wealth, quite easily. But if I should ever actually achieve success, all I hope is that I remember what matters most.
I hope I remember to love people more than money, and more than things.