Then Pealed the Bells

A couple of years ago, we joined family at an after-Thanksgiving event in the bucolic foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s to enjoy time together and kick off the holiday festivities…Santa was going to be there (his first sighting away from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade).

As we walked the grounds, we were offered chestnuts (yes, roasting on an open fire!) and then watched the volunteers make wrought iron trinkets on the forge and anvils in the blacksmith shop. I thought of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem ‘The Village Blacksmith’ which starts, “Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands”. He talks of the strength and example of this industrious man and ends with this last verse:

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought!

It was at this ‘flaming forge of life’ in 1863 after the death of his wife and critical wounding of his son in the Civil War, that Longfellow wrote one of his most beloved poems called “Christmas Bells”. In this poem he laments his plight and feels that ‘hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men.’ Yet, from the internal struggles he found hope and finished his poem with these words:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.

The forge of life has shaped and molded us through the years. This forging makes us pliable and tempers us so we can be stronger. With the compassion and love we have developed through this challenging process may we seek out, this Holiday season, those whose vision may be blurred by their present pain and struggles. May we reach out our hands and lift their head towards hope. We are all blessed, if we reflect upon all we have received, and now it is our responsibility to give. Take time with your team to give back to your community, your church, schools or your favorite charity.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.

Larry Johnson