FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | James Cathcart | London Streets
In the fall of 1843, Charles Dickens was in a slump. His last published work was not faring well, and debts were mounting. Overwhelmed with the knowledge that his own father had suffered in debtor’s prison, and fearing for his own family, writer’s block set in and things gradually went from bad to worse. Sleepless, he took to walking the London streets, night after night, hoping to find something to spark his imagination. Several times, he came face to face with a side of the city that was hidden from the eyes of most. Everywhere he went during those dark nights, he saw the homeless living in the alleyways, and the children working long hours through the night to help their families make ends meet. While Dickens was aware of the plight of the poor, and had, in fact, written about them in some of his earlier works, these nights had a profound impact on him.
He began to realize that he was not the victim here. He, with his relative wealth and power to reach thousands, was in a position to serve those less fortunate than himself. Thus began the feverish writing of one of Dicken’s most famous works, A Christmas Carol. This famous story of a selfish man obsessed with his own wealth and accumulation, and his subsequent transformation was the story of Dicken’s own life. The more he focused on the plight of the impoverished, the more creative he became. His own problems were put into perspective, and after a period of time, completely diminished in comparison to his mission, which was to bring to light the terrible conditions that existed in England, and rally those who had the resources to end it. Each holiday season, following the publication of this little book, Dickens would do a public reading in theaters all over the city. When he finished the story, and the applause died down, he would implore the theater-goers to learn from the character of Scrooge, and find joy and fulfillment by giving to those less fortunate.
As we wade through the economic crisis we are facing, it is so easy to withdraw and start hoarding in the spirit of personal survival. Times such as these demand that we remember Dicken’s masterpiece. We are an interdependent species and, contrary to our instinct, will thrive only when we reach out and help others.