Last year I picked up a $5 Christmas CD while shopping at Kohl's. The proceeds went to charity and I needed some new tunes. Last week I finally listened to it.
First time through, I was a mite annoyed. The songs were different.
Second time through, I recognized voices.
The third time, I listened with a different ear. Turns out, it's a fabulous rock/bluesy Christmas CD, the perfect addition to my library.
Track one is my favorite: Rob Thomas singing "A New York City Christmas'. Every word is poignant. Each note, pleading.
His words stopped me. They made me wonder.
"...Yeah I'm sending you a Merry New York Christmas
And a prayer for peace on earth
Within our time
Oh, the sidewalk angels echo hallelujah
And we understand them
Now more than ever..."
And we understand them? Really? I never stopped to do that. I never tried to understand them. Not the sidewalk angels. Nor the others, either.
I remember feeling unsafe in the days following 9/11. More than once, I imagined myself cowering in a closet, bombs exploding in my back yard, the 'enemy' advancing on my neighborhood. I felt what that must feel like. What too many feel every day.
Awful, awful, awful.
Now, digging deep, I find a memory and dust it off. It's 1970. I'm in 7th grade. The teacher closes the blinds and hushes a darkened room full of expectant pre and barely-teens. Then the whirring begins as the 8mm film threads itself. Suddenly Stalin's armies burst on scene. Bombing Poland.
In black and white the shells whistled. Buildings exploded. Unceasing. Relentless. Panzers rolling in to cities reduced to rubble, residents surely shaking in their shoes. If they had any left after the long, cruel 2nd world war.
It was supposed to be over. Their side, our side, had won. So why didn't the allied forces stop Stalin?
No one came. Not the English. Not the Americans. In spite of Poland's repeated and frenzied cries for help, the great nations looked away. Broken and battered, the Poles caved and Stalin installed a communist government in Warsaw. Wasn't that what our forebears had been fighting against all along?
I cried angry tears. Tears of anguish. Tears of shame. I was thirteen. Like the Poles I couldn't fathom why my country didn't help them. Then time marched on and I forgot what I didn't understand.
Fast forward forty years to 2010. To me, listening to Rob Thomas's Christmas song.
"...Call on your angels
Come down to the city
Crowd around the big tree
All you strangers who know me
Bring your compassion
Lord how we need it
On this New York City Christmas..."
Call me slow. But happy Christmas. I finally understand.
"...So call on your angels
Your beaten and broken
It's time that we mend them
So they don't fade with the season
Let our mercy be the gifts we lay
From Brooklyn to Broadway
And celebrate each and every day
This New York City Christmas."
My wish this holiday season
Is that we all find understanding.
That compassion guide us.
And that mercy be the gifts we lay.
~ Olivia J. Herrell
**Disclaimer: I am no expert on foreign affairs, or world wars, or he said/she said. I'm just reporting my own experience. No more.**
Rob Thomas video courtesy of youtube.com. Lyrics courtesy of lyrics007.com. Polish memory jogger courtesy of Wikipedia.