Friday, December 17, 2010

The Gifts We Lay

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
Your understanding
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.

Hallelujah.

~ 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.

16 comments:

The Words Crafter said...

What a powerful memory. My eighth grade teacher was a WWII fanatic and we watched News Reel films that didn't flinch at anything. I wonder, if it had not been for Pearl Harbor, would we have ever entered the war?

Do politicians sit in their seats and figure out if helping an ally is economically beneficial?

I'll stop there, but, like you, I wonder....

We do need compassion and I love the song AND the words....

Wonderful post, thanks for sharing it.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Compassion is the one Christmas gift we should give where it is needed every day of the year.

Everyone is having a harder time than they appear to be having. Yours was a lovely post. Thanks for the reminder to be more kind and less hurried this holiday season.

Do you think Jesus looks at our shoving and rushing this time of the year, looks at his nail-scarred palms and whispers, "Why did I bother?"

Kimber Leszczuk. said...

This was beautifully written. Well said!

Vicki Rocho said...

I actually KNOW who Rob Thomas is. Not personally or anything (gah, I wish) but I didn't have to open Google in the other window to quick look him up. Love reading his lyrics. So much in there.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

If one has compassion the entire year around and not just at Christmas it would be such a happier world.

I enjoyed your post very much.

Yvonne.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

If one has compassion the entire year around and not just at Christmas it would be such a happier world.

I enjoyed your post very much.

Yvonne.

Postman said...

One word: bravo.

Olivia J. Herrell said...

Words Crafter, I'm glad my post evoked a memory for you, too. I wish that we could have more realism in our reporting today. Wouldn't it be nice to hear about things that matter vs the things the media deems as news.

Roland, no, I don't. I think he looks around and loves us no matter what. Then sends someone (maybe you or me?) to help them remember why we're all here anyway: to love, to give, to serve. Happy Christmas, dear friend!

Kimber, thank you so much!

~Olivia

Olivia J. Herrell said...

Vicki, hey there, so glad you stopped by! Yes, I'm newly in love with Rob Thomas after finding this song and reading his bio. Amazing man.

Yvonne, thank you so much!

Postmas, awww shucks. Thanks!

~Olivia

Elliot Grace said...

Olivia, my dear, upon reviewing your last several posts, I believe your muse is currently hitting on all cylinders:)
Big fan of Rob Thomas, and loved this post. You're no longer writing...this is artwork. Well done:)
EL

Tabitha Bird said...

Thank you for this. Good thoughts to think on.

Olivia J. Herrell said...

El, wow. I am humbled. Thank you so much for your encouragement. It means a lot coming from the man responsible for "South of Charm". Love your new book cover and sypnopsis, btw!!

Tab, thank you!

~Olivia

Jules said...

I cannot top the other comments but this is powerful my friend. Excellent writing.

Sending you compassionate angels for Christmas :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Olivia J. Herrell said...

Jule, thank you, my friend. I'll share those compassionate angels with you and the rest of this beautiful world we live in.

Happy Christmas, Olivia

Eric W. Trant said...

My brother and I had this whole big set of WWII picture-book encyclopedias.

There must have been a dozen of them.

We were pre-teen, maybe 11 & 12 or so, and we couldn't get enough of those books. I must've read them front-to-back-to-front a dozen times.

Our favorite "episodes" were Normandy, of course, and a group of pictures showing topless pinups the army guys would keep in their tents, boobs and all!

My mom ripped out the pinups. Prude.

You can't rip out a memory, though. There were about six of them in pink (I assume pink, it was black-n-white) tutus, shirtless, standing arm-in-arm doing kickups where you could see under the skirts.

Yeah. I'd fight for those women.

- Eric

Terry Stonecrop said...

Beautiful thoughts! Kindess and compassion means much more than gifts.

Merry Christmas!

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