Bell Choir

Several years ago, two of my daughters participated in our church’s bell choir. They were only a part of the group for a few months, but it was a good experience. They weren’t too sure about it when I first suggested it, but they had an excellent teacher and they grew to enjoy it. It was an easy opportunity a couple of times each month for me to tell them how proud I am of them. Sometimes during adolescence (especially with girls) it’s a challenge to find such prideful moments.

These days I often think of my daughters’ brief bell choir days because every work day I hear a different chorus of bells. Elevator bells. The high-rise building I work in has four elevator bays in its large lobby. The first bay has two elevators dedicated to a few floors for small, private businesses. The second bay has six elevators that service the lower floors of our building. There are another six elevators that ride “express” to floors 15–22. And the final bay of six elevators zooms up to floors 23–30. That’s a total of twenty elevators, each of which dings every time it lands on the main floor.

For much of the day the lobby is quiet and only occasional dings echo across the vast marble floor. But during the morning and lunch “rush hours”, there is a constant chorus of dings as people bustle about. Most people have grown accustomed to this bell choir and don’t pay attention to the dings unless they’re waiting for an elevator to arrive. And sometimes there are so many people moving about and so much commotion that you have to really focus to hear that bell chorus.

Sometimes just for fun, when my schedule isn’t too demanding, I like to grab a cup of hot tea and find a place to sit in the lobby for a few minutes during the morning rush hour. Even though there are many people passing through, they’re usually a bit quieter than the crowd at lunchtime. Maybe they’re still waking up. None of them pay me any attention. Perhaps, sitting there listening to the elevator bells is a form of meditation. Some might think it’s appreciating the music of bells. I think of it as an acknowledgment of life.

People coming and going. Energy and movement. Life. In the moment.

Some people come through the lobby loaded down with heavy bags—shoes, lunches, laptops, purses—and maybe even heavy hearts or thoughts. Others come in smiling, visibly eager to get on with their day, and some appear in a hurry so as not to be late for a meeting or phone call. Many have on earbuds listening to music or talk radio. Several walk while looking at their Smartphones, alone in their universe and aware only when some motion invades their personal space. A few people pass from the outside to an elevator bay hesitantly, grudgingly, seemingly dreading what awaits them once they arrive upstairs. It’s to those people I want to call out, “Listen to the music of the bells.”


Making a Case for The Short List


Stop for a moment and think of the saddest novel you’ve ever read or the one movie that made you cry even after the movie was over. I’m guessing more than one answer comes to mind. Maybe even a list. Now think of a book that made you feel happy, deeply happy. No doubt a short list.

What is it about our nature that as writers we are drawn to pen and paper when we are feeling at our lowest or saddest or most depressed? Why don’t we write annoyingly happy stories and post them, just as many people post pesky vacation photos on social media? You know the ones—two feet with freshly manicured toenails resting on the edge of a lounge chair with an ocean view, or the glass(es) of wine standing on a linen-covered table overlooking a mountain scene.

Every time I see such a photo on Facebook or Instagram I want to scream. I’m happy for the person who’s had a great adventure but I can’t afford any such vacation and I’m not in the mood to deal with my envy or jealousy. Those images are akin to my childhood bully taunting, “Haha! You can’t get me!”

Why is it so much easier for us to wallow publicly in self-pity and whine and complain? Why can we easily tap into negative emotions and write epic novels about those experiences? Try to do that about happiness and critics will say it’s boring and trite, or worse, fantasy.

All of this is on my mind since I find myself in a pleasant moment in time. Mind you, I’m not complaining. But it’s highly unusual for me—at least in the last eight years—to have a run of six months of peace and happiness. I’m not stuck in a quagmire of misery or depression, and there’s nothing at the moment for which I need to seek solace or guidance. Sure, I want more money and more sleep. Chocolate would be great too. Beyond that, life is good. Quiet. Uneventful. No drama!

I’ve thought about sharing an ethereal post: “Kids are fine. Work is good. Life is wonderful. Having a fantastic day! Wish you were here.” Maybe even add a photo of a glass of wine. Imagine the comments: “Where are you?” “Have you been drinking?” “You’re no good at writing sarcasm.” “What did so-and-so do now?”

I read a blog post last week written by someone with whom I went to high school. She doesn’t know I’ve been following her journey of watching her husband succumb to ALS. In her writing last week she apologized for not having written much lately, not because she’s been busy or because life has been too hard. She was lamenting the fact that she only writes when she’s overwhelmed with depression or the depth of what her husband is facing, even though she declared that particular day a good day. If my husband were dying a slow and tortuous death, I’d be writing constantly trying to keep depression from suffocating me. Please! Write about the happiness you’re experiencing because I can’t see it!

I also haven’t written much lately, and not because I’ve been too busy or overwhelmed. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to flaunt my good moment in time, or I don’t want to jinx myself. Maybe I don’t know how to write about happiness; after all, they say you write what you know.

Evidently I’ve been silent too long because people are asking, “Why aren’t you writing? What’s going on?”

No one wants to read about someone having a great day because so few people can relate to that. Maybe I need to start a new trend, call it Random Happy Moment. With small messages, 140-characters at a time, we can quietly create a revolution of good-natured moments. Spread an ounce of happiness here and there, like dandelion seeds. Imagine the possibilities.