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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.

Here's to you, Longfellow

I've just spent the weekend with a large portion of my extended family. My grandparents have lived in the same house for 43 years, and small-town Oregon still serves as the meeting place for our holiday gatherings. I love everything about the town. From the lights on the small main street to the impressively renovated library (that stocks a couple copies of Schooled, I'm pleased to report), to the gravel that replaces the pavement once you get far enough away from city limits, being there with the fam is the closest I can come to being completely happy.

On these holiday weekends when we're all together, we have a Christmas tradition of caroling several houses in the area. Yes, I said caroling. As in a big group of people singing Christmas carols. In someone's front yard. Until they open the door. As we caroled the other night, I was struck by one house in particular. The woman who lived there was so touched, she put a hand to her mouth as tears welled up in her eyes. As some of us hugged her, she began to openly weep, and while it was probably just a happy, holiday spirit kind of cry, it made me think of all the people this holiday season who are sad, depressed, and lonely. In some ways, I think we all are. It's hard to live in this world and not be affected by the sea of crap that we as a society seem to be perpetually swimming in.

And so I've been thinking about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem about the Christmas bells. You may have heard it, but what you might not realize is that he wrote it out of sheer despair. His wife had died in a tragic accident, and his son had been severely wounded in battle. The most heart-breaking stanza:

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then he ends with the most powerful and inspiring stanza of all, and one that to me is a very literal reminder of the biggest source of hope we have.

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."

On this Christmas Eve, I hope we can each find the peace and comfort we seek, and that those of us with the resources to be of service to others will feel inclined to do so. Even if it's just a Christmas carol on a rainy night.


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