Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge.

A grateful heart

“Gratitude is a matter of paying attention, of deliberately beholding and appreciating the other”

Yme Woensdregt

I’m a huge fan of the Muppets. I remember watching Sesame Street with my kids just so I could become part of the fascinating puppet world of these wonderful, personable creatures for a few brief moments. When The Muppet Show appeared on TV in 1976, I put it into my calendar as a scheduled event, as important as any meeting I had to attend. And of course, I’ve watched all the Muppet movies starring Kermit, Miss Piggy et al numerous times.

So it might come as no surprise that my very favourite version of the classic story of A Christmas Carol is … The Muppet Christmas Carol. It stars Michael Caine as the redoubtable Ebenezer Scrooge, and a nasty one he is. Kermit plays Bob Cratchit, with Miss Piggy as his wife. In a delightful dramatic turn, the Great Gonzo plays Charles Dickens, narrating the story with his sidekick, Rizzo the Rat. The various ghosts of Christmas are magical as they evoke the spirit of this timeless story.

At the end of the movie, after his trips with the three ghosts of Christmas, and after he has come to understand something new about life, Ebenezer Scrooge sings these words—

“With a thankful heart, with an endless joy,

with a growing family, every girl and boy

will be nephew and niece to me,

will bring love, hope, and peace to me;

yes, and every night will end, and every day will start

with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart.

Life is like a journey. Who knows when it ends?

Yes, and if you need to know the measure of a man,

you simply count his friends.

Stop and look around you: the glory that you see

is born again each day—don’t let it slip away

how precious life can be.”

There is more to the song, but the first verse and chorus is enough to yield the sense of how the movie ends.

Part of the reason I love the song is for its bouncy rhythm and joyfully infectious tune. After watching Scrooge’s transformation from a miserly and miserable skinflint into someone who has come to recognize the value of generosity, it’s exactly the right song with which to end the movie.

But the other reason I love the song is the way in which it helps us see that gratitude is a choice we make. We can choose to live with a thankful, grateful heart. Gratitude doesn’t depend so much on the circumstances of our life and what happens to us. Gratitude depends on how we choose to respond to life.

In her book “The Gift of Thanks”, Margaret Visser writes, “Gratitude is always a matter of paying attention, of deliberately beholding and appreciating the other.” The act of giving thanks is a choice to be mindful of the others in our lives. We choose to behold and appreciate others in a deliberate, conscious kind of way. We acknowledge our dependence on one another, and we choose to express our appreciation.

It strikes me that we have learned much about our interdependence during this time of pandemic. We are learning in a whole new way that we are not solitary individuals making our own way through this life. Rather, we see how interconnected we are, and part of what we have learned in the last six months is how we can care for each other as we live together. We see in new ways what a profound effect we have on one another, and we can be grateful for the ways in which we are able reach out to help each other.

So while it may be too early to talk about A Christmas Carol, it is always the right time to think about living with grateful and thankful hearts. Even in this difficult and painful time as the second wave begins to wash over us, I am choosing to be grateful:

for the other people in my life;

for those who labour to keep me safe;

for those who keep the places I visit clean;

for those who wear masks and keep their distance to keep other people safe;

for those who work hard to develop policies which try to help our whole society;

for those try to remain patient with those who refuse to adhere to safety protocols;

for all the people who, whether we know them or not, work to make our lives as full as they are—grocery workers, truckers, and shelf stockers; infrastructure workers who make sure that the power stays on so that we can be warm and safe in our homes; the multitudes who work behind the scenes, farmers and processors and builders and thinkers and planners.

As I express my gratitude, it strikes me again how we live in a world in which we are connected to one another. There is so much to be grateful for in all our lives.

What I learn from this Scrooge is that I also might learn to “Stop and look around you: the glory that you see is born again each day. Don’t let it slip away how precious life can be.”

As we learn to see, our hearts are opened to how glorious and precious life can be … even in such a time as now.

Yme Woensdregt is a retired Anglican priest living in Cranbrook