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A Christmas Carol

When I first met thirty nine year old Roger on Christmas Day in the psychiatric hospital, he was crying.
Roger told me how much he hated Christmas. As our conversation went on, he shared that his mother had died when he was very young and his father was always distant.  Roger recalled being left alone at boarding school while his friends went home for the Christmas holiday.
Determined to make something of his life, Roger decided to put all his energies into being rich. And indeed, he was wildly successful. But ultimately his obsession with wealth prevented him from close friendships or ever getting married.  As the years went on, Roger preferred the ‘security’ of his money rather than the unpredictability of human relationships.
Now he was grieving, and utterly all alone. And suicidal.  
The next morning, I took a bit of a risk and told him that his journey made me think of Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.”
Wrong thing to say - or maybe it was the right thing…?
Roger erupted: “Who the hell do you think you are, calling me Scrooge?”
I decided to not let up.  I told him that this is his moment, his watershed moment, and his anger toward me was not going to deflect the reality of his suffering.
Roger then started swearing at me. He raised his voice and threatened me.  I responded that he can choose to threaten all he wants but I’m not going anywhere;  I’m right here, every day, and I care.   I told him he could leave the hospital if he wishes and continue to ruin his life if he wants to…….
Now if I was a literary romantic, I’d like to say that Roger had a dream that night of “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.”  And that the ghost showed him how relationships and giving are the key to happiness, and that in the end all his wealth would mean nothing.
But of course life doesn’t always go the way of novels and movies.  Unfortunately, Roger chose to sign himself out of the hospital.  Before he left, I told him that trying to make up for his past pain and neglect by beingself-contained will not bring him joy.  But Roger would hear none of that and told me to get lost.
 —— ——- —— —— ——- ——- ——- ——- ——-
One of the beauties of life is that we humans have free will; we can make our life what we wish it to be.  And we have the blessing of repentance, that we can turn our past around.
 —— —— ——- —— —— ——- ——- —— ——-
Two years later I was walking down the street and suddenly, there was Roger.  He appeared amazingly like a different person,  greeting me warmly and then introduced me to his wife and newborn daughter!  I must say it was all quite surprising and delightful.As we departed, Roger looked straight at me and, with a smile and a wink, he said quietly, “Call me Scrooge!”

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