Friday, December 21, 2007

Hope Among Elves

Operation JINGLE (Jen Is Not a Greedy Little Elf) has been an interesting experience. When i first set out, I had high hopes for myself. I'll donate all my money and it'll be so great! It's easy to feel like you do enough good in the world when you aren't faced with needy people on a daily basis or faced with their hands asking for a donation. And when you are faced with that daily, it's equally easy to rationalize why i ought not to donate sometimes because hey, i paid a dollar to a guy a few days ago. What if this guy buys drugs with it? And I tell myself this until i haven't donated for weeks, and months. And again, remember, this when faced with needy people quite literally, feet apart. To look at them in the eyes and say no. When i feel myself getting like that, i am frustrated and ashamed by my own lack of charity and then I feel helpless, not just against the needs of the world, but my lackluster efforts which never seem to be enough. I wanted to do this experiment to show that I am a charitable person, that Christmas means more to me than buying presents. While I don't think I've proven myself to be the most unselfish elf, I have decided that this has been an extremely positive experience for me and here is why:

1) I have learned that I have much more to give. If this experience had taught me that I had given the most I had or had done the very best I could, I think I would have been fooling myself and the experiment would have thus been deemed a failure.

2) I trained myself to listen for the bell when, another time, I might have tried to ignore it. I'd have felt a slight pang of guilt as I passed by but the rationalizing would kick in and I'd do pretty well with that. Since I had made the decision beforehand to donate to all buckets I passed by, I didn't have to be faced with those moments of [brief] inner turmoil as I was out and about. Maybe this only eliminates my guilt which doesn't seem a too noble of thing. But I truly felt glad to donate to the buckets even though my efforts left much to be desired. Something is better than nothing and I have high hopes for myself in that respect. I think i will be much more likely to donate in years to come, having made it a habit, to where I won't even give it a second thought which is how i think it ought to be.

3) New York is a decidedly materialistic town. You feel the pressure to have, to buy, to get, at every turn. Your heart is fooled into thinking you'd really like to own those things and that spending that absurd amount of money on them isn't such a crazy or bad thing after all. That said, New York is wonderfully fun during Christmas. It is, and that is a good thing. But, now, one could see these two things colliding to make a colossally superficial swamp of a holiday. Just another reason to buy, buy, buy.

But then one pivotal day I was doing the dishes and while I did that I turned on some Bing Crosby Christmas and included in Bing Crosby's Christmas is a little song called Silver Bells. Up until now, this song hasn't meant much to me. I remember reading on another blog how Christmas songs seemed old fashioned and didn't have much application to life these days and that seemed to ring (heh) true with this particular song. Silver bells? What silver bells. I mean, i know bells are a Christmas and Christian symbol. Ring out wild bells, etc. But what is this one, specifically? As I washed the dishes I heard some very pivotal phrases that will always resound with meaning for me, now and forevermore. Here they are:

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there's a feeling like Christmas
Children laughing, people passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner you hear

Silver bells, silver bells

It's Christmas time in the city

Here's another bit:

Strings of street lights
Even stop lights
Blink a bright red and green
As the shoppers rush home with their treasures
Hear the snow crunch
See the kids bunch
This is Santa's big scene
And above all the bustle you hear

Silver bells, silver bells

It's Christmas time in the city

I had an epiphanous moment. This song must be about the bell ringers in the city! What a wonderful song this now is! It applies directly to my life. Now, the other lyrics may seem unimportant and frivolous. Generic words about buying things and the hustle and bustle. But this describes New York City perfectly. This is exactly how it is, and it's so true-- above all the bustle you do hear silver bells. They are on every street corner. I have seen this with my own eyes and heard it many times. I laugh at what this song now does for me. It brings giving, and my whole purpose and hope for this experiment, to this city in which i live, this town where one can so easily succumb to greed and want. It has become my newest defense against my inner greedy elf.

Every Christmastime, it will always ring in my ears and my heart a reminder, that as I participate in festivities and fun, I always have something to give, and I should give, and because of this experiment, I will. Ring-a-ling, everyone. Ring-a-ling.

1 comment:

Brooke said...

Ring-a-ling indeed. "Silver Bells" has taken on a whole new meaning. :)