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EDITORIAL: Take a lesson from Scrooge

York Dispatch Editorial Board
Totem Pole Playhouse had a production of "A Christmas Carol" in 2015.

Maybe it's time for some antimaskers and economy-first people and those who say "It only kills old people" to get a visit from three spirits.

Or maybe just one would suffice.

It's the time of year when "A Christmas Carol" is usually playing on at least one local theater screen, or a classic film version is at one of the second-run cinemas, or at the very least Alastair Sim or Bill Murray are chewing up the scenery (and cigars) on TV.

Of course, this is not a typical year at all. This year, theater groups are wringing all the pathos they can out of  "Christmas Carol" on Zoom, and streaming services have a variety of movies on the theme available day and night.

Still, the plot remains the same. And while the Spirits of Christmases Past, Present and Future are alternately forcing Ebenezer Scrooge to remember that he used to have a heart and terrifying him about what happens when that heart stops, there's a part that often doesn't get a lot of mention.

Scrooge is a really good businessman.

He knows to the penny how much money he has and how much people owe him. He has a lean budget for things like heat, and he's put out when these holidays come along and his employees expect to be paid for a day when they're not doing any work.

Scrooge doesn't like having people tell him how to run his business. He sees no need for giving his money to charitable agencies to improve the lives of the poor. He doesn't want to cut into his profits by improving working conditions for his employees. 

It's no stretch to say that Scrooge wouldn't want the state telling him people have to wear masks at his business. If people want to avoid being exposed to a deadly virus, they can remain in their homes for as long as it takes for herd immunity to kick in. And if some of them can't remain home and consequently die, that decreases the surplus population. 

His former partner, Jacob Marley, has sensibly died without any family ties, leaving Scrooge as the sole proprietor of their business for seven years, until that Christmas Eve when the dead Marley shows up in Scrooge's room, demanding that Scrooge take a hard look at himself and his practices.

As Marley shows Scrooge the chains he forged for himself during his life and wails about his lost opportunities, Scrooge points out that Marley always did his best at business.

And Marley lets him have it.

“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

It's a lesson more people need to hear today.

Living through a pandemic is about more than one person or one business. There are times when we have to think about the greater good, and this long, long year is one of those times.

As the numbers of cases and patients in the hospital and deaths continue to increase, it's a time to reflect on the common welfare, charity, benevolence. A time to think about someone other than yourself, someone like the health care workers and hospital staff taking care of COVID-19 patients, and the hundreds of people in York County who hear every day that they are infected.

Do the right thing for them, if you won't do it for yourself. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay home when you can.

Don't wait for pandemic ghosts to drop by and drive the lesson home.