It started with …
The fall chill was settling over London in the year 1843. With family bills mounting and the mortgage due a father was feeling the pressures of financial uncertainty and decided to go for a walk to ease the stress. The man was diligent in his work and not without some measure of success but the margins were small and the pressure was constant. While walking along the banks of the river Thames, he wandered into a rundown London neighborhood. The streets were strewn with garbage, gutters overflowed with sewage, and pickpockets and streetwalkers were everywhere.
He thought back to his troubled childhood, when his father had been sent to debtors’ prison, and how he himself had been forced to work at age 12, pasting labels on pots of boot polish for twelve hours a day, 6 days a week. He remember the feelings of despair. He remembered the fragile ember of hope that he clung to during those days, kept alive by a kind word, a passing smile, or gesture of kindness however small.
As he reached his home following his walk, he had a flash of inspiration. He thought of writing a Christmas story full of cheer and goodwill for people who, like he, had suffered poverty and had known what it was like to live in fear and despair. But it was only three months until Christmas, could he finish such a story in this short time? He got right to work, inspired by the homes and the faces of the neighbourhood he had walked through and from where he too had once lived.
Over the next months Charles Dickens created A Christmas Carol. It was not the first book he had written, but this one was very different than the others. This book was to be a gift, for everyone, especially those that needed a kind word, a smile, or a gesture of kindness to keep their hope alive.
He became very involved with the book, even designing the cover, insisting on a gold-stamped cover with a red and green title page and several hand-colored etchings — an expensive design. Yet Dickens held to his original vision of making the book affordable for the widest possible audience, charging only five shillings a copy.
The response was overwhelming. The first 6000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve. Copies were shared between families and read aloud together. Today, Dickens’ story is a literary classic and the story still brings people together in experiencing its hope filled message. Dickens said that writing that story transformed him.“I was very much affected by that little book,” he later told a journalist, “and quite reluctant to lay it aside even for a moment.”
Dickens insisted on its low price even despite its popularity. As a result he did not realize much profit from the sales of A Christmas Carol. It was, in a very real sense, a gift to the public.
By virtue of its popularity, however, the story created a much wider audience for Dickens’ works. His later novels, including David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations, all proved highly popular and financially profitable, and his place in literary history has been assured for all time.
It was Dicken’s gift that opened the way for audience and influence.
King Solomon writes, “A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.” (Proverbs 18:16)
King Jesus says, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:42)
What is it that I have the capacity to give which will produce hope in others and open the way to something great?