My kids roll their eyes when I break out “A Christmas Carol” this time of year. I do it because it’s a favorite story of mine and one in which Dickens does a superb job relaying what the season should be all about: “keeping” Christmas in our lives. And he ends the story with a message of hope and redemption – that if we have not kept Christmas, it is never too late.
I read once that Dickens was inspired to write the story after a bout of writer’s block. Mounting debts and financial pressures were bearing down on him, so he began to walk the streets of London at night, hoping to break his spell. Some of these walks took him through poor areas of London where he began to witness the dark side of poverty, and worse yet, children forced to work in horrid conditions. These experiences led to the story, “A Christmas Carol”.
Perhaps the most important line in the story comes about as Scrooge is confronted with the ghost of his long-time business partner, Jacob Marley. The ghost bemoans his past as a mortal to which Scrooge replies, “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob”. The response is arguably the best line in the story:
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
Sobering, Marleys’ words are. How often, in our own eagerness to seek the relaxation and pleasure of angling a-stream, have we not kept Christmas? How often have we helped the community-at-large in some way beyond our own wants? Have we ever taken a kid or adult – someone in need – to the beautiful places we fish? Have we been kind to fellow anglers, considerate to others, and patient? How have we used the wonder of fly fishing to better the world? Have we “kept” Christmas in our angling, and beyond that, in our lives, and if not in the past, can we commit to it in the future?
So, fellow flyfishers, I urge each of you to pick up “A Christmas Carol”. Draw up near the fireplace, book in hand, and drink of its wisdom. Then carry it with you this year – grace each river and stream you cross with it. Be truly, a better angler…