January 18, 2022

VAN NOSTRAND: Tough to break the human mentality

With the holidays behind us, we now put our attention on paying the holiday-related bills and those new year resolutions.

But maybe there is one thing I have been exposed to for many Christmas seasons but I finally grabbed hold of it during the holidays that just passed. And I don’t want to let it go.

What does it take for people to fully understand the situation they are in?

For years now, I have watched and loved movie adaptations of “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens’ classic book from 1843. What I finally paid full attention to this time was Ebenezer Scrooge’s ignorance of himself well after the ghosts take him on his time-travel journey.

Scrooge isn’t alone. George Bailey, the main character from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” also with a Christmas ending, has similar characteristics. That movie is also a tradition to watch every December.

I think both stories have much in common, even though some details are different. Both Scrooge and Bailey needed a supernatural situation for them to understand their life and actions. (I hope I’m not spoiling either for those who have not watched the movies or read the book.)

We all probably know someone, or have known someone, who we thought needed a supernatural moment to slap them back to reality.

Both characters eventually transformed as they were shown their lives through other, proverbial eyes. Near the end of Bailey’s time seeing what his hometown of Bedford Falls was like without him, he begs his angel Clarence to tell him what happened to Mary. She was his wife in real life.

Clarence explains how she works at the library. Seeing her leave the building, Mary doesn’t know who George is (remember, his wish of never being born was granted). George falls apart after he’s convinced the woman he loved and married is fearful in his presence because she doesn’t know him.

That was after Clarence took George to the cemetery to see the grave of Harry, his brother, who died in childhood since George was not there to save him from drowning. Crazy how the death of his brother was not enough for George to be convinced. What does it take for some people to be convinced?

Depending upon the movie version, Scrooge’s transformation was arguably not as dramatic as Bailey’s. Scrooge didn’t waste time to realize what a waste he created when the ghost of Christmas past showed him what happened to the woman who he could have rode off with in the sunset. He wanted money. She wanted something more valuable.

Today, we still have the tendency to put too much emotion into less important things.

Scrooge was shown the death of his employee’s son, who had been ill for a lengthy amount of time. Scrooge just wanted what he could benefit from his employee, ignoring that his employee also had a life and feelings. It’s still tricky today. Co-workers don’t have to be best friends. As long as the job is done, that’s the main goal. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore those genuine moments in life, even if it happens to someone else we see from 8-5 on work days.

By now, the Ghost of Christmas Present was started to see some change in Scrooge. But it still wasn’t enough. Like Bailey, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come takes Scrooge to the cemetery to see his own grave. Scrooge is still a bit skeptical, but when the snow is cleared and his name and dates are visible on the stone, Scrooge fully realizes what he had missed because of of his own selfish interests.

I really don’t have committed new year’s resolutions. Sure, I could lose a few pounds. I could take more walks to lose those pounds. But my goal this year is to be more content with my surroundings. It’s a challenge here at the CNA. We are short two staff members in the newsroom. But you, the readers who pay for this still, deserve something worth picking up off your front porch or through the website. You will probably see the difference for a while longer. I’m not going to dance around it.

We do have a few people who have asked about the positions. But making sure it’s the right person for the job, and getting them here, doesn’t happen overnight or next week.

I don’t need a ghost or angel to tell me not to panic. I just want them to tell me it’s going to be OK.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.