Taking the Measure of Friendship

Taking the Measure of Friendship December 26, 2013

My family enjoyed our annual viewing of The Muppet Christmas Carol (still the best, still the source of two of my mental images for Harry Potter characters: The Ghost of Christmas Present as Hagrid, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come as a Dementor).  But there is one lyric in “Thankful Heart” (above) that tends to strike a wrong note with me:

I will sail a friendly course, file a friendly chart
On a sea of love 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

Unsurprisingly, as a not well-liked child, that lyric made me feel a bit uncomfortable.  I didn’t have many friends and though I supposed as an elementary schooler I might be able to acquire some if I had gifts to give out, that didn’t seem like the kind of friendship worth pursuing.

Rewatching as an adult, I can’t say that the new Scrooge actually possesses that many friendships on Christmas morning.  He is generous, to be sure, distributing money and food (and song!) to the people in the streets, but his relationship with them is glancing and generic.

The only personalized gift he buys is coal for his bookkeepers.  Since he has been miserly with his time as well as with his money, they are the only people he has interacted with at length and the only particular need he can relieve.  This time around, I wondered if when Scrooge sang about counting friends he meant people who would list you as a friend or people who you knew well enough to love and serve in the office of a friend.

By the second measure, Scrooge is poor indeed on Christmas morning.  So as he distributes his bounty through the streets, he is still approaching others as a beggar.  He is offering what he can in the hopes that the people he meets will invite him into their lives, so that he might know them well enough to love them particularly.


P.S. The Dominicans I know in DC are also blogging about The Muppet Christmas Carol for the holidays.

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