Okay, Charlie, okay. We get it. Giving is good. Hoarding your cash and being a mean old jerk is, well, bad. But though this may be a lesson we've all heard before, that doesn't make it any less valuable. And being a do-gooder is important all year round—not just at Christmastime.
In fact, many of our wealthiest people follow Dickens’s lead, and pump their oodles of cash back into charitable giving. By promising to give up huge portions of their money, these richest of the rich are making a huge difference. They've learned to suppress the Scrooge, and you can, too.
Step 1: Before we get down to the nitty gritty, it's probably a good idea for us to figure out what in the world we're talking about in the first place. So take a moment to help your teacher out and chat with the class about how you would answer these questions:
- What is the most generous thing you or someone you know has done?
- Have you ever done anything nice for a stranger? Why did you do it?
- How do you define generosity? Giving? Are these different from charity?
- What is charity, anyway?
Got a good definition under your belt? Excellent. Now let's bring it back around to the text.
Based on your brand new definition of the term, what are some examples of charity in A Christmas Carol? Shmoop amongst yourselves.
And if you're looking for a good example or two to get the conversation going, think about these moments in the story:
- Two gentlemen gathering donations for the poor
- Scrooge’s nephew asking Scrooge to Christmas dinner
- Tiny Tim praying for others at Christmas church service
Step 2: We bet that, at this point, you're probably asking yourselves, what does an old meanie in Victorian England have to do with us 21st-century people?
A lot, we promise. But in order to really dig deep into this question, it's best to prep ourselves with a little movie time. Check out ABC News’s story on Bill and Melinda Gates' Giving Pledge.
Now that you've seen that clip, you and your classmates should talk out the following question:
- What does the Giving Pledge have in common with A Christmas Carol?
You and your peers can start off fast and loose with this question, but the goal here is to come up with a coherent answer that your teacher will write up on the board in paragraph form. Get your feet wet by tossing in a sentence to get things started, or to elaborate on another student's thought. Toss out a reference to the story, or the video to back your classmates' ideas up with textual proof. At the end of the discussion, your class will have created an awesome paragraph connecting Dickens's story with the modern world.
Step 3: You've got this charity thing down, don't you? Well, we're not quite done yet. In this step, you'll dig a little deeper into the Giving Pledge by analyzing letters written by famous philanthropists.
But first, group up. With two or three of your classmates, read George Lucas's and Bill and Melinda Gates’ Giving Pledge letters. Be sure to read carefully, with a Sherlockian eye for detail, because you'll be answering some questions about these missives, and those details just might come in handy later, too.
When you've read the letters, answer the following questions in paragraph form as a group (on one sheet o' paper). Be sure your answer includes quotes from the letters to back up your points. Be ready to share your polished prose with the rest of the class.
- What compelled these people to give such large amounts of money away?
- What is the Giving Pledge, and whom does it target?
Step 4: Penned your paragraphs? Good—it's time to share them. Read your group's work aloud to the class, and listen closely as the other groups read theirs. Once everyone has shared, ask yourselves, what similarities did you all find between the letters? What differences? Your teacher will help guide the discussion to prepare you for the next step.
Step 5: We know—after reading these two inspiring letters, you're just itching to write one of your own. Well, now's your chance.
Here's your prompt:
If you had billions of dollars to donate to charity, what would you donate it to, and why? Write an open letter in which you answer this question by pledging to give your (sadly imaginary) money to a specific cause. Your letter should follow the same basic structure as those of the Gateses and Lucas, and it should include a personal experience that inspires your charity.
Step 6: If there's time, share your letters in class. Listen up as your peers read theirs, too, because it's always fun to learn what gets others motivated to give.