Finished another great book in the carpool line this morning. I have a goal to read 24 books this year and I’m to two already. Thank you long lines. Not really, but anyway, this book is called Jacob T. Marley, and it’s by R. William Bennett.
The premise is based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, only instead of being from Scrooge’s point of view, it’s based on the life and death of his nasty old partner, Jacob Marley (think Goofy in chains). Here’s the official synopsis:
Marley was dead to begin with . . . These chillingly familiar words begin the classic Christmas tale of remorse and redemption in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Now R. William Bennett rewinds the story and focuses the spotlight on Scrooge s miserly business partner, Jacob T. Marley, who was allowed to return as a ghost to warn Scrooge away from his ill-fated path. Why was Marley allowed to return? And why hadn t he been given the same chance as Ebenezer Scrooge? Or had he? Written with a voice reminiscent of Dickens, Jacob T. Marley is to A Christmas Carol as the world-famous Wicked is to The Wizard of Oz as this masterfully crafted story teaches of choices, consequences, and of the power of accountability. It is sure to become a Christmas favorite.
My thoughts as I finished this book were greatly influenced by circumstances in my life right now. Without going into any particulars, I will simply say that the message of this book greatly touched me. The gist is that we can never truly know the effect of things we do on other people, for good or bad. Like dominoes falling or ripples in a pond, it’s beyond our knowledge in this life to know the full extent of our reach. What William Bennett hints to, and I happen to agree, is that in the next life we’ll be given the opportunity to see exactly what consequences came from our actions (or lack of actions) here on earth.
The older I get, the more I realize that opportunities to help people come in very small windows. Those windows open rapidly and usually at inconvenient times, but they also close rapidly too. When a situation comes up, my first thought is, “Wow. They could use some help.” But sadly, my second thought is usually, “I’m really busy now. I’ll them later today.” But I rarely do. I’ve found that if I don’t jump on the opportunity right when I see it, more often than not, it’s gone before I think to go back—if I go back. And then I’m stuck living in an awful place:
Many people believe Hell is a place of fire and brimstone, and maybe it is, but I kind of think that it will be a place where we get to see every last person we hurt or didn’t help, over and over again. I personally believe–the gospel according to me–that we’ll get to see the true effect of all our decisions, right down to the very last ripple. And sadly, I think those ripples reach much farther than we care to know.
Today I’m stuck thinking about a situation that has left a pit in my stomach. I keep wondering if I could have done more, acted more kindly, more Christlike, would it have made a difference? I don’t know, but it’s not a happy place to be.
This is exactly what happens to Jacob T. Marley though. After his death, he’s taken back to the exact moments where he could have done something to help Ebenezer Scrooge, or the woman in the apartment, or his sister, and on and on. He gets to see that by not acting in those small windows of time, not only did he hurt those people, but they in turn, hurt others.
Would it have changed Scrooge if Jacob had treated him better? Maybe. Maybe not. I like that William Bennett doesn’t make any assumptions that way, because really, we can only be responsible for our own actions. But still, the premise is a warning to all of us—or at least, it was to me.
On the other hand, we have no idea the power behind a simple act of kindness, or how far reaching our a good deed may be. The human race is like a giant spider web. You can’t pull on one string without affecting the others.
The really amazing thing is that I have met the author. My very first book signing ever was with William Bennett. I don’t think he had any idea how nervous and idiotic I felt walking into that bookstore. I was SO out of my element. And over my head. I’m an idiot by nature—and awkward—and clumsy—etc, and in that moment, I’d never felt more so. And yet he was warm and welcoming. He talked to me, made me feel at ease, gave me a few pointers, and just that fast, turned my first book signing into a great experience—which then led to four more great book signing experiences.
I’m sure William Bennett has no idea how his quick little “service” helped put me at ease. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t even think of it as a service, but it was. And after reading his book, I feel even more grateful to him.
Okay. Enough gushing. It was just an interesting read on an already interesting day. Well timed.
To quote from the book: “If we do nothing but to remove a rock upon which someone might have tripped, though they may never know we did it, is this not our cause, our reason for life?”
Go read it. Then go move some rocks.