Ring the Bells that you can ring

Captain Elmo Jayawardena

The nights are getting colder. The occasional sky rocket shoots into the star filled heavens with a promise of more to come. The yearend festivities are about to begin with Christmas glitter leading the parade. I love Christmas, and to be very frank sometimes it is more in prospect as the anticipation is always better than the reality. That is personal, but by and large it is a good-time to have fun filled days, especially if your pockets jingle loud and clear with enough coins to spend.

As I write this in early December I hear Elvis on White Christmas and Willie Nelson singing Pretty Papers, the little ones at home (not mine, but mine’s offspring) have started Jingle Bells and jumping around like Rudolph pulling an imaginary sleigh. More to come as the days get closer to the manger matter, that’s when they will paint their noses red and hope Mr Santa received their wish list letters in the North Pole. He certainly would, the parents can afford. 

A Buddhist friend from Oman wrote to me and said “I will send some money to you can you give it to someone to celebrate Christmas?”

Yes the amount was adequate for five families. She’s leapt over religious barriers and brought kindness to the fore and thought she’ll ring the bells she can. There are many who celebrate Christmas on the same lines, doing something for people in need, especially for children whose homes Santa Clause always skips. But then there are others too who sing the loudest carols and stuff themselves silly with cakes and sweets and does not even know they could ring some little bells that would make a huge difference to someone in need. Isn’t there somebody who would always be grateful to receive a morsel of generosity from the ‘can’ and the Christian?

What really is Christmas? We all know the nativity and the religious connotations. It sure is a celebration and a very holy remembrance of what took place one silent night in the little town of Bethlehem. The Shepherds and the wise men and the frankincense and myrrh and the comet in the Palestinian sky told the entire world that a different king was born. Such is the beginning. The prince of peace brought a message of love, for mankind to wake from the darkness and seek solace for the human race.

How far have we come from that two thousand plus year old revelation? How far have we diverted from where we were supposed to walk. Where is the peace, where is the love and where is the quality of care that we human beings are supposed to have towards one another?

Yes, the times are such that nations erupt in the greed of war, races rant and vociferate being superior, religions kill meaninglessly in the name of their gods and you and me the ordinary get entangled and mangled in the mayhem so that we ourselves at times do not even know who we really are. Leadership of the world is more corrupt than it ever was, backed by sordid buying of people and power where some who rule today in pomp and majesty are pure ‘put-on’ and would amount to nothing and naked in another generation. But the God images are created and maintained by the minions who holler hurrah in hypocritical cheer simply to gather the crumbs that fall from the table into their plates. That is the world order today, what Osama does in Tora Bora or Obama plans from the White house and who sits in Downing Street does not matter. They each have their hymn sheets and we the lesser beings are supposed to hum in harmony. Acceptance of the inevitably fractured humanness has become a way of life. It is universal and I will be the first to say I am guilty for my cowardly silence.

But there must be little interruptions to this charade we live. Christmas is a great time to re-think and look at our own mirrors and see what we can of ourselves. Maybe it might dawn on us to take a different step, at least at this time of joy and giving, to do something unusual for a change, maybe become a miniature Santa Clause to some family or child or just find some way to share a little of what we have to see the glee in someone’s face who too prays to some god the same way we do.

Why not try this alternate for Christmas, offering something to someone in need. Let’s change the moral compass a bit. Amidst the Grand Ma recipes we have for rich cake and bruder and queen pudding and tiramisu, let’s try a little kindness too. The human warmth would make an instant transformation in the spirit of both the giver and the receiver. Stretch a hand to a rag dressed kid with soulful eyes and give him a gift that he never expected. Reward a family in want, anything is a hamper to them, stand near a super market and buy a small cake for a mother to take home to her hungry kids who are accustomed to coming last in life. Let us include such others in our celebration. Wouldn’t our rich cake then taste better?

Look at it in another way; remember the star that glittered with the message of peace? Find the voice to forgive someone or make a friend with a stranger. There is so much to do to make our Christmas bright. We need to see the deeper meaning of Bethlehem, of Christianity, or of any other belief, and convert such to basic human values so that at least during this festive time we could be better human beings than we normally are. Not the best and maybe not for long, but at least better for a little while.  

My Buddhist friend gifting money for five poor families to celebrate Christmas opened my eyes to write these words and share with you. I need to become someone better even for a day; that would be my way of looking at Christmas.    

So let’s ring the bells that we can ring, do not wait for the perfect offering. The words I did not mint, they are Leonard Cohen’s: I am only passing the message. The bells need not be big and bronze, nor glittering in gold or sparkling in silver. What is needed is the ring, the sound of kindness which is contagious and spreads like the wind and becomes the universally accepted bonding between us, the human beings.   

The bells that we can ring have to be rung, each in his or her own way, doing something for Christmas to make someone happy. It is not to shout to the world how generous we are but to tell ourselves in a deeper sense that we have celebrated Christmas within our hearts and poured into our very souls something that glittered real and meaningful to celebrate the birth of Christ.

The shepherds couldn’t have done better, nor the wise men with their myrrh and frankincense. All we need is to include a little sharing into our celebration, add a little kindness and sprinkle it with care and make the season brighter. Or else enjoy everything by ourselves and mark this year too as just another mundane Christmas.  

The Choice is solely ours.


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Filed under cultural transmission, life stories, reconciliation, Sinhala-Tamil Relations

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