Thursday, January 2, 2020

Softening the harsh realities

“If it be so, O listener, dear to him in all his visions, try to bear in mind the stern realities from which these shadows come; and in your own sphere- none is too wide, and none too limited for such an end- endeavor to correct, improve, and soften them. So may each year be happier than the last, and not the meanest of our brethren and sisterhood debarred their rightful share in what our Great Creator formed them to enjoy.” The Chimes: A Goblin Story, Dickens                                                                                
A Christmas Carol and The Chimes are Dickens' masterful Holiday works. The Chimes is lesser known and darker, set on the eve of a New Year. Like A Christmas Carol, The Chimes challenges the societal  neglect of the hard and shortened lives of the poor. In Dickens’ England, poor houses and debtors prisons were the social answers to hunger, sickness, poverty and injustice. 

The call to "soften" is a well chosen word because, while there is not much in our control,  the softening suggests small, incremental change, like a yeast that pops and snaps its way into the whole. 

Softening is not often the product of a consultant's analysis. Their observations are interesting, sometimes beneficial. Their prescriptions have a limit, even if deemed necessary. But once the boxes are checked off with a 5 year plan, it's time for another round, no matter how much buy-in there is initially.   

The century before Charles Dickens, Methodism's founder, John Wesley, failed in his plan to preach the Gospel to Native Americans in the New World. After a spiritual awakening, the Anglican priest wrote that he went to the Georgia colony to convert others, but needed himself to be converted. 

Letting the harsh realities of neglect and indifference in us soften would be a good first step. E. Scrooge would no doubt agree.  

*Wesley, 1703-1791, Dickens, 1812-1870

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