By Margaret Benson
Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation
E.S. McMahon stared at the computer. He knew that it was late in the afternoon on Dec. 24, and he knew that heneeded to get home to his family, but he couldn't resist checking his billing and receivables just one more time. It was his best Christmas present, proving that he was not only his firm's top biller, but that he was also the top income producer.
As he logged off, giving his bottom line one last, lingering look, he heard a noise. Assuming it was the cleaning lady finishing early for the holiday weekend, he got up and started to stuff papers into his briefcase.
He didn't plan to work much over the next few days, but he figured he'd squeeze in a few hours here and there.
Then, the noise again. Louder and closer. Nervous, he looked around and saw . something.
Or was it someone? Scared now, he moved quickly, but stopped when he heard his name. His full name.
"Ebenezer Scrooge McMahon."
Startled, E.S. looked around again, but noticed nothing more than a shadow. A shadow? Of what?
Grabbing his cell phone, he got ready to dial 9-1-1 when he heard his name, his full name, called out again. This time, though, he saw someone.
An old man, wearing very old-fashioned clothing, Victorian clothing, in fact. Now E.S. understood. Someone in his firm discovered his name and his famous ancestor and decided to play a joke on him.
"Okay. I get it."
"Get what?" the shadowy person asked.
"Very funny, whoever you are. Yes, it's Christmas Eve, and yes, the famous Ebenezer Scrooge was my great-great-great-etc., uncle. So, can we both go home now to our families and celebrations?"
"Ebenezer, it is I, your great-great-great-etc., uncle. You are the last, living descendent of my dear sister, Fannie. I have come to warn you, to tell you that mankind is your business and that you are neglecting it. Whooooo. Whooooo."
" 'Whoo, whoo?' What is that all about?"
"I am a ghost and mean to frighten you. Listen to me rattle my chains and howl."
"Uncle Ebenezer, calm down. I need to get home to my family and I am sure that we can clear this up.
"You are mistaken if you think that I'm like you. Our family learned from your ghosts. My great-great-great-etc., grandfather didn't care about business like you did. He loved family and his neighbors. From what I've been told, he was a great guy.
"He always kept Christmas. In fact, big blowout Christmases are a family tradition going back 180 years. I was raised to be generous. I support a lot of charities. You should see the tax write-off I get for my charitable contributions.
"So you have no cause to worry about me. Why don't I go home and you can go back to . wherever you go to."
"Oh, great. What now?"
"Tax write-offs. Bah! Your version of Christmas is as humbug as was mine. Yes, you are no miser. Youlive a lavish lifestyle. You earn millions and you spend millions.
"Yes, you give money to charities, but only to those that augment your status in the community.
"You work hard but you bill even harder. You ignore the need that is before your very eyes every day. It is my duty, my familial obligation, to show you true charity."
"So, three ghosts. Past, present and future? C'mon. I really do need to get home."
"Ebenezer, I will forego the ghosts if you look down the hall and tell me what you see."
"I see the cleaning lady. Don't worry, Uncle, the partners gave her a nice gift of cash."
"Did you know that she and her children are about to lose their home? A foreclosure is looming.
"Her husband died last year. His employer refused to submit the paperwork so that she could collect his pension or life insurance. She has not been able to keep up the payments on their home and they have to move. Her children will have to change schools. She'll use your bonus to buy a few gifts for them, but what she really needs is an attorney to help her get what she is legally entitled to. She can't afford you, can she?"
"N-o-o-o. I guess not."
"I suppose she could apply to one of your charities for housing assistance when she and her children are evicted."
"I get your point. You are suggesting, in your not-too-subtle way, that perhaps I could help her. I could be her lawyer for free. Pro bono?"
"Oh, Ebenezer Scrooge McMahon. Heaven and the Christmas time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, Ebenezer!"
"Get up, Uncle. Get up and stop the emoting. I get it. I do not want any more haunting and no ghosts.
"I will keep Christmas and I will practice pro bono, now and forever. I will give the gift of myself.
"A merry Christmas, Uncle."
"A merry Christmas, Nephew. And, to quote an old friend of mine, 'God bless us, everyone!'"