Let the Bells Ring!
“I'm here, I'm here, I'm here. Let the bells ring, and the people cheer!” At times, my dad would exclaim these words as he came crashing through the door at the end of the work day or after a hunting vacation.
The nod to self-importance was purely intended as humour, but as children, we missed that and felt, to some degree, it was just the right feeling.
We'd come running and squealing, “Dad's Home, Dad's Home,” reaching for hugs. Our older sister would, most often, arrive first, getting a few extra hugs, then we little men would receive a gentle punch in the arm on top of our hugs after her. We instinctively understood the affirmation. Sometimes, he would get down on the floor, right there in the front hall, wrestling with us as we climbed Mount Dad.
I was a bit older than my two brothers, and my roughhousing could have hurt them, so I would sometimes step back and let them go.
One day, upon stepping back, I realized the significance of these moments. My Dad had not gone any further into the home; he had dropped, just inside the doorway, and given himself to us for those few precious moments after he had arrived. He had made our souls a priority. Unlike the stereotype of the time, he wasn't using the self-justification of working hard all day, to excuse himself from spending a little time with us, even when he was most tired. I saw it in his face, with the eyes of an older child, and was warmed by it.
He never had a father growing up, yet he found the will to do what he had not been given, to ensure we didn't feel the same way. He actively made time for camping trips, fishing, canoeing, and playing football in the park with my friends and I, when his old buddies came to visit.
As we got older, for some reason, they got better at the game. I've since realized they were taking it a little easy on us when we were young, so as not to discourage us. But as we got older, they pulled out the stops, to give us a reality check and teach us to reach for more, to show us there was more.
I remember following him in hip-waders, through shallow waters on the reserve, as we seeded it with food to draw in the muskie, for the annual muskie hunt. The hip-waders were up to my armpits, tied about with bail twine to keep them there and watertight. Stumbling, dropping far behind, I was sometimes carried by my Dad or another of the men in the group, through the deepest part, but only so far, and then I had to finish on my own. This was a time when I felt like a little man.
During this time, one was only allowed to use a bow to muskie hunt. I was too young to hunt with them, as it was hard enough to walk it, but I shared in the sense of inclusion and the thrill of the feed afterward.
The anticipation of possibly being included in the future was a good clean dream. It inspired me to become very proficient with a bow. I was on the archery team for Port Perry High four years in a row; we never lost during this time: I felt in my element. I don't know if there are any others out there, who were team members during this time, who remember it.
This stands out as a vivid memory to me, as does running in the 1600 meter race in OSSA when I was 18. I had been noticed on the track during gym period, as I paced myself and ran the loop. I had little time to prepare after I was asked, three weeks or so. It's a two-lap fast-paced race. I didn't win but was doing quite well, running like a deer in the woods: this is what I saw in my mind's eye, as I ran. I was in first place for the first lap and most of the second, then, all at once, I heard the voice of my girlfriend at the time, breakthrough, along with the the voices of other teammates urging me on. Even though they all intended the best for me, my concentration was gone, the deer was gone, and I was a boy on a track being overtaken by the pack. As I rounded the last turn and found myself with an empty tank, and I had to walk to the finish. I had not prepared for the gift they had tried to give me, to carry me through the deeper water, just enough for me to get my legs back, so I could finish well on my own.
Moments before, I was like the wind and then it was gone. Things change like that in life, but remembering watching my Dad find it, to give to his children when we were young, helps me see, even now, there is more to find. It had been prepared and, unbeknownst to us, was being imparted for when we would need it. Sometimes, we all need help. To paraphrase the Beatles, “We get by with a little help from our friends.” That's part of the plan; their help is integrated in the moment, ahead of time.
Often, when I am reaching out to another soul, in the midst of their struggle, I am reminded of the scripture, which states, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10) ESV
Stepping back is not a weakness, it's an opportunity for maturity, a clarity enough to open up, for strength that's ready for you, prepared for you, if you will but receive the gift, the help, or the preparation.
Imagine... there is a plan, a good way and a purpose, and we can step into it and find the strength, clarity, and skill if we let God be the only voice we hear, even over those who believe they have our best interest at heart. He will bring the help or sometimes make us the help for another. On the first Christmas, when God came crashing through in the flesh, into our existence as Jesus, He didn't shout out His own arrival; it came from the heralding Angels, “He's here, He's here, He's here, let the bells ring, and the people cheer!”
You know, if you are willing to be warmed by it, you'll feel just like we did with our Dad, and like me, want to just run to God, arms open wide, saying, “Dad's Home, Dad's Home!”
and Happy Seasoning.