Why We Need To Stop and Listen For Those Magic Bells

Family Matters on 12.24.12
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Photo: clarism_4/Creative Commons

The Polar Express, written by Chris Van Allsburg and recently turned into a movie, tells the delightful story of a young boy who catches a midnight train to the North Pole in order to witness Santa’s preparations for Christmas Eve. He receives the first gift of Christmas – a bell from the reindeer’s harness. It makes the most beautiful sound in the world, a musical ring that delights all children who hear it. Surprisingly, the boy’s parents can’t hear it and think it’s broken. Eventually, the other children are unable to hear it anymore because the bell rings only for “those who truly believe.”

As I watch my three-year-old son dance through the preparations for Christmas, his joy, fresh enthusiasm, and barely-contained anticipation are infectious and I can see that he is one of those children who truly believes. He is so excited about Christmas. He inspects the gifts under the tree, mostly respecting the rule not to touch before the 25th. He pulls down the stockings hanging on the fireplace and tries to squeeze his feet into them, hopping around the living room. He plays with the wooden manger scene figures – baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the elephant. Improvised versions of “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night” explode spontaneously from his lungs as he races through the rooms. All the while, we adults stress out about the last minute shopping, gift-wrapping, menu planning, and house cleaning that needs to be done before we can really enjoy ourselves.

I think we could all take a lesson from children at Christmastime. Having little ones in the house for the holidays is a blessing and a gift, for they force us to remember what really matters at this time of year – having a spirit of optimism, fun, and generosity. The household details that preoccupy us adults, though necessary, should not prevent us from loving and enjoying the moment. These days fly by, so it’s important to stop and listen to the bells because even the children will outgrow them eventually.

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