Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The Ring of Humanity
The end of the year nears, and it is this time in December that we become more susceptible to emotions. We miss the things that we no longer have, the towns, and cities where we grew up, the smell of fresh cut evergreens, our old pets, and of course, our family and friends that are no longer with us. Sometimes the silence as well as certain sounds become more pronounced around Christmas, and for many, we are able to see, and hear things that may slip by any other time of the year. Just a few days ago I was told a story by someone very close to me, and I think it serves as a good example of what the spirit of Christmas can, and should be.
Avoiding eye contact with the Salvation Army bell ringer in front of many stores becomes the big challenge for many of us during this season. It may be because we simply do not have any cash on hand, or maybe we just gave some change to the guy at the store a few blocks away. Feeling guilty, we might even mention that, as we pass in hopes of some sort of absolution from the guy or gal holding the bell.
As she approached the store front, the sound of frozen snow and ice crunched under her feet, as if to remind her, of the time of year, and all the things to come, Christmas, New Years, and the decorations that would have to come down soon, hidden from view once again. The sound of a high pitched bell getting louder as it echoes throughout the entrance to the Fred Meyer store. Expecting to see the bell ringer that had been at that location for a number of years in the past, she noticed that it was someone new. Instinctively she reaches into her bag, and pulls out a few bucks, and has it at the ready along with a non directional smile attached to her face. Placing the folded bills into the little red bucket, she looks up, and into the eyes of the bell ringer, her smile broadens as she turns and heads toward the doors, she stops, and looks back. The woman is compelled to turn around, and approach the bell ringer once again, this time looking closer, studying his eyes, and even more so his face, and the steady smile upon it. Another few bucks dropped into the bucket along with words for his ears, "you have a very kind face," but inside the woman felt much more indeed. It was not just a kind face she had gazed upon, but to her, the face of suffering, peace, warmth, and forgiveness all in one. She turns and continues to the door dealing with the thoughts that were now racing through her mind. The doors close behind her as the bell ringer wearing Carhartt bibbed overhauls, (the clothing of a carpenter,) stepped just far enough into the entrance door area to cause it to open. He took a few steps and as the woman turned around, he said "Thank you," and with the same smile he returned to his spot and continued to ring his bell.
It was not easy to shop as she went over the events that had just played out. Had he thanked her for the money she had placed in the bucket, or perhaps for seeing him for what he was? She thought about the man's face and the layers of feelings that she had seen there. She could see suffering, not just of man, but all creatures. A thin veil separated another layer, a layer of warmth, and peace followed by yet a third of forgiveness, and etched deep inside was a simple message of faith. The woman exited the store and sits in her car, and with the sound of the bell now distant, but its power stronger than ever, she begins to sob.
As we approach this Christmas, and reflect upon the past events of a very hard year, would it be so hard to believe that a message from a higher power may have come dressed as a carpenter while ringing a simple bell?
May the coming year be better for all, Merry Christmas to all living things big and small!