Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Searching For Christmas

My senior year of high school, I spent one winter evening ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. My friend C and I stood outside of the local supermarket, bundled up against the cold, but I don’t remember feeling that cold. We gossiped and laughed. At one point, we tried unsuccessfully to create a two person bell choir. It sounded pretty awful, but we attracted some attention and hopefully some donations.

Towards the end of our shift, more of my friends joined us. After C and I were relieved, we had plans to go to a local nursing home to sing Christmas carols. I can’t remember whose idea it was now or how the subject even came up, but it was our mission. I do know that the idea was ours – not a school project or a parent’s suggestion.

We piled into a few cars and off we went. Looking back, we were really a disorganized group. We had no music, order or plan, but we gave it our all. We marched down those institutional hallways – the kinds that are decorated to look like home, but don’t quite make the grade. We sang the songs we knew to the residents in the hallways and in the sitting rooms. Some joined in, some smiled, some clapped and some ignored us…

We were coming to the end of the last hallway and the door to one of the rooms was open. In our group, T was the son of a minister. We could forget that for long periods of time, but I saw a different part of him that night. While the rest of the evening we had just walked the halls, at this room he led us in. He had seen something that the rest of us hadn’t.

Inside the room, a whole family was gathered around a sleeping man. He was attached to many machines that softly beeped and pushed oxygen through failing lungs. You could feel how close to the end it was in the solemn expressions of the family in the room. There were no smiles in this room even though holiday decorations lined the walls.

“Silent Night. Holy Night. All is calm. All is bright.” We sang in hushed voices – almost a lullaby and then silently filed out of the room. We had no words, but I remember that one of the men had a smile for us as we walked out. Simple Gifts.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Wow -- how beautiful. Thank you for sharing that special memory.