Are there no prisons?
~Plenty of prisons.
And the Union workhouses - are they still in operation?
~They are. I wish I could say they were not.
Alastair Sim plays Ebenezer Scrooge in my absolute favorite version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol (actually titled just Scrooge in this London version). In the first scene at his office, Ebenezer is solicited by two gentlemen who are raising money for the poor. His questions, and the Collectors' retorts I have copied above. Scrooge, clearly irritated by the amount of time wasted in this conversation, continues by dismissing the gentlemen without donating anything.
Immediately, his nephew shows up to wish Uncle Scrooge a Merry Christmas - to which he replies most famously: 'Humbug!'.
Let us, on the eve of another turning of the calendar, pray that we are everyday less and less like Mr. Scrooge.
Let us pray that we are less and less focused on and driven by our own busy-ness.
Let us, as the ghost of Jacob Marley reminded Scrooge, make humanity our business.
Let us slow down, enjoy the scenery, smell the (insert your olfactory organ's most enjoyable aroma-producer here).
Let us whistle while we work.
Let us greet each other well.
Let us care - really care - about each others welfare.
Here's to new beginnings, new habits, new outlooks, and new adventures!