In a review of Charles Dickens’ timeless classic A Christmas Carol for the Smithsonian magazine this week, Kat Eschner says its author hoped that the lessons in the book “would be remembered all through the year.”
She also observes that it was a story about the urban contradictions of extreme wealth and poverty, industry and inability that helped change Victorian society.
Released just before Christmas 173 years this week, Dickens’ book speaks to the need for those that are privileged to have more than is required for their basic wants to have empathy for the less fortunate not just in this season of Yuletide but always.
A Christmas Carol may be nearly two centuries old but its lessons remain relevant today. Just like Victorian England so many years ago, social inequality and extreme poverty and deprivation are rife in our society today.
Elsewhere in this paper, we report how the run-up to Christmas has been muted with some of the people we spoke to confessing that they did not expect the day to be very different from any other. In Kigali itself, there was little evidence of the excitement that normally precedes the anniversary of Jesus Christ’s birth. All these anecdotes point to financially trying times for many households.
Yet for every person that has little reason for cheer, for the affluent, Christmas often degenerates into an unrestrained display of opulence and extravagance.
And it is does not require any stretch of the imagination for one to realise that in many places of worship, prominent parishioners will be falling over each other to demonstrate their generosity by how much they put in the offertory. Giving to God’s work is laudable but it is doubtable it will attract any blessings if one forgets or is blind to the needs and hunger of brother or neighbour.
This year’s Christmas comes at a time of great tribulations for many in Rwanda and other places in the world. Many are the hungry for lack of a job, displaced from their homes because of conflict, or because their crop was failed by drought.
There is no shortage of need around us and we pray that God puts into our hearts the conscious and sensitivity to the plight of those that are less fortunate than us.
With conflict and terror engulfing the world, peace is perhaps the most significant gift that the protagonists can give to those caught in the crossfire of their anger.
Sometimes our contribution is not so much in the material things we give but the care we take not to make another life difficult.
One can argue that as Rwandans, we should not find any qualms about giving this season. We are blessed to have a long established culture of giving and empathy for those that happen to be in less favourable positions than our own.
Traditions such as Girinka, attest to out generosity of spirit and empathy for others. Let’s make this Christmas worthwhile for everybody in both spirit and action.