Jeff Haanen

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Charles Dicken


Fezziwig and the Joy of Work


There exists a kind of lightness and unhindered joy that can fill a company and its employees with deep and instantaneous happiness.

In Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, Mr Fezziwig is a perfect example of this lightness and joy. When the Ghost of Christmas Past takes old Scrooge to see Fezziwig’s ball, even his own heart is kindled with warmth.

Dickens describes the joy of Fezziwig’s house on Christmas Eve. The warehouse was swept and cleared, a fire lit the room, and a fiddler played his song. Mr Fezziwig’s daughters, the housemaid, the baker, the milkman and the cook came to the ball. In came more than twenty couples, dancing, eating a roast, and wishing each other a Merry Christmas. Looking on, Scrooge felt younger, unlike the miser he had become.

And the Ghost comments to Scrooge:

“He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four, perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves praise?”

“It isn’t that,” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not latter self. “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

Fezziwig’s joy for life was contagious, and the influence he had over his household was contagious. With a simple smile or glance, he could “render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome.”

Faith at work may mean many things to many people. But this “slight and insignificant” spirit of delight can spread to co-workers like light glimmering off the face of dancers on Christmas eve. It doesn’t cost anything, but joy is a subtle quality that draws the distinction between “just a job” and a vocation.

Discussion question: This Christmas, how will you render the work of others happy or unhappy, light or burdensome? What is the difference between a task being a pleasure or a toil?

Note: Thanks to my friend Brian Gray for pointing out this delightful passage to me over a glass of ale yesterday – and for connecting it to a theology of work.

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