Early in A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by two men trying to raise money for charity. Scrooge asks if the prisons and workhouses are still working. The men say yes, sadly, many of the poor are in those wretched places. But these charitable men would like to provide some Christmas cheer to those in need: food and warmth.
“‘I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.’
‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’
‘If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides–excuse me–I don’t know that.’
‘But you might know it,’ observed the gentleman.
‘It’s not my business,’ Scrooge returned. ‘It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly.'”
–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
What’s striking to me is this: Scrooge’s attitude is common, even now. His business occupies him constantly only because he allows it to fill his time. How often do I use “I don’t have time” or “It’s none of my business” as excuses? Is this true? Or is this an excuse to ignore other people’s needs?