For my book club this month, we decided to take it easy and read a holiday short story, since many of us feel overwhelmed and limited on time during the holiday season. We settled on “The Mansion” by Henry Van Dyke, a Christian short story about a wealthy man who has a life-changing dream, much as Ebeneezer Scrooge did in Dicken’s classic.
In “The Mansion,” however, the main character is not a “grinch” being greedy. John Weightman is a very generous man, having donated to charities such as hospitals and orphanages throughout his life. Yet, as the opening scenes with his grown son reveal, he’s still missing the meaning behind the giving. He believes himself to be a Christian well-worthy of a mansion of heaven, but he gives because he expects financial return or a social “Thank You” that recognizes him as such.
In his Christmas Eve dream, John Weightman gets to see his mansion in heaven as he walks with some of the people he knew throughout his life. As I mention, his dream changed his perspective and while I don’t want to reveal the end, let’s just say, yes, it’s a bit predictable and dramatic, but satisfying nonetheless.
My book group enjoyed discussing the ways in which we can adjust our attitudes toward giving; are we giving for that Christmas morning “reaction? are we giving for worldly recognition? What does it mean to give selflessly? Is a generous John Weightman selflessly giving when he’s giving as he thinks about that mansion in heaven that he hopes will be his reward? How can we adjust our attitudes the year round to be more generous and sincere?
The story is a predictable, somewhat sappy one, but it was perfect short Christmas story to talk about this holiday season. I enjoyed it for the most part.
Read The Mansion” online.