In 1863, on Christmas Day, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the poem Christmas Bells as he struggled to find hope in his changed world. In 1861 his wife died due to a tragedy of fire in their home and his eldest son soon became maimed by the violence of the Civil War. But as Longfellow heard the bells that Christmas Day in 1863, his hope was beginning to return. He was inspired to write Christmas Bells and his soul poured out onto the paper
The poem was set to music by John Calkin who took the liberty of removing two of the original stanzas about the Civil War making it another sweet Christmas carol. You know the carol as I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Longfellow longed for hope and peace. Our country is longing for the same, but we are confused as to how to accomplish the goal. Hope is that expectation of something good to come about, but it cannot come if we don’t work for it or strive to find it.
Writers write and that’s what Longfellow did in his quest for hope. Today the world is caught up in the power of anger and the turmoil of bitterness. Nothing can be accomplished this way. Do the next right thing and no matter the cost of that effort, the reward is priceless. Stand up for the goodness and power of believing in the sound of those Christmas Bells with their message of hope and peace.
However, maybe you don’t hear the bells. Maybe you don’t see the stories that others show you in their actions, but in order to find hope, you must listen intently with your ears and with your heart. It is then that hope will come to you because you will realize that “…God is not dead nor doth He sleep…” as Longfellow wrote and peace and joy will fill your soul.
Longfellow and many like him can inspire us to live a hopeful life, to erase the bitterness and discontent from our moods and surrender to the next right action for ourselves and our families and friends. Some years ago during the Los Angeles riots, Dan Rather, a notable and admired newscaster said it all begins in the heart of each man. Hope can be contagious. Find hope and spread it around.