The Mystery of the Bells
Since Elizabeth became ill I had done most of our shopping and must admit I got pretty good at it. I clipped coupons, checked for sales, compared store brands with national brands and much more. I got to the point where I somewhat enjoyed shopping and would probably still do most of it even if Elizabeth was healed.
As I drove up to Albertsons supermarket at 16th and State Street in our fair city of Boise, Idaho, I noticed for the first time that Christmas decorations were up and Christmas trees were for sale. I wasn’t sure if decorations had just been put up or if this was just the first time I had noticed. It seemed like Thanksgiving had just ended, and it was too early to even think about Christmas. I felt a little like Scrooge as I got out of my car thinking about all the presents I had to buy compared to how few I would receive. I remember thinking as I entered the building how it would be a lot better if Christmas came once every five years.
Then, as I opened the door, all thoughts left me … I heard the bells! They were the same bells I heard in my quasi-sleep, but this time I was sure that I was awake and the bells were real. I retreated back out the door and turned around. To my surprise I saw a bell ringer for the Salvation Army!
I was amazed that I had not connected the bells I heard in my sleep with those of the bell ringers. Somehow I did not remember them sounding like the bells I heard in front of me. The sound of these bells seemed to be so pure, sweet and almost holy. Perhaps I had just never listened to them before.
The bell ringer was a good-looking older man around sixty years of age, clean shaven with dark hair and simply dressed. Some bell ringers look like they could have been taken from a homeless shelter, but this one did not give that impression. He was a far cry from looking like an executive, but he also gave the impression that he would never be down and out. If I were to guess his vocation by his looks I would guess that he was a high school teacher or maybe even a real estate salesman like myself.
After I had looked his direction for about thirty seconds, he caught my eye and said: “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” I said as I retreated back into the store in a state of bewilderment.
As I went through my wife’s shopping list I tried to find meaning in it all.
I heard bells on my awakening three days in a row and now I heard the same bells here at the grocery store by a Salvation Army bell ringer. At the time I heard the bells I was thinking like Scrooge about Christmas. Maybe I was being taught some supernatural lesson like in the movie. Perhaps I was being told that I should donate to the poor.
Financially, I was feeling like one of the poor myself, for I had gone heavily into debt and had no extra money because of Elizabeth’s illness. Nevertheless, perhaps I was supposed to take my mind off my own concerns and think of others who have problems.
By the time I finished shopping, I decided to give the bell ringer a donation on the way out. It wasn’t much, but maybe it was what I was supposed to do.
As I passed by the pot, I dropped in a five dollar bill. The bell ringer looked me in the eye and said: “Thanks. Have a Merry Christmas.”
There was something about the look in his eyes that disturbed me. He seemed to have large eyes with large pupils and the look about him reinforced the idea of a teacher in my mind. There was something about his look that made me feel that he knew things that I did not. I had never felt that way about a stranger before, but that is how I felt about this man.
I got in the car and started driving home and passed another store that appeared to have a bell ringer. I parked again and walked toward the bells and stopped in front of the man. I was stunned. These bells sounded similar, but not exactly like the first bell ringer or those heard in my dream state.
This piqued my curiosity, so for the next couple of hours I drove all over town and visited every bell ringer I could find. Each one of them sounded similar to the second bell ringer. Only the first bell ringer created a sound like the bells that I remember hearing in my sleep. Then I began to wonder if my mind was playing tricks on me. Maybe I just thought those first bells were like those in my dream state.
Elizabeth was upset that I was gone so long shopping; she had worried about me. She quickly calmed down as I explained to her what happened. I ended with, “Maybe it was just my imagination that the first bell ringer sounded like the ones that I heard on waking.”
“And maybe it wasn’t,” she said. “Maybe it is a sign of some kind. Perhaps you were just supposed to remember the spirit of Christmas and give what you can afford and that’s all there is to it.”
“Maybe,” I said, not convinced she was right.
I felt unsettled about any explanation we could arrive at about the bells. The next morning, as I lay between wakefulness and sleep, I became even more unsettled as I heard the bells again. This time I heard them resonate for a few seconds after I was fully awake. I knew now that the bells were not from my imagination. I also knew that the message of the bells was not resolved.
After I shared this with Elizabeth she said: “Your guess that you are supposed to have a more giving spirit may be correct. The last time you gave five dollars. That’s probably about all we have given to the poor all year. Think about it. That’s not much of a donation. I know we don’t have much money, but we can do better than that.”
“You’re right,” I said. “This time I will give fifty dollars. That’s about all we can afford, but we can give that much.”
I took off again to Albertsons at 16th Street and approached the bell ringer again. Again I heard the beautiful sound. They were definitely the same sound that I heard on waking. As I started to appreciate their beauty, I felt my whole body and soul resonate to the vibration of the bells. Somehow they made me feel whole, peaceful, strong, connected.
It’s difficult to give you the picture, but the effect was definite and strong. I put two twenties and a ten in the pot, looked at the bell ringer and said, “Merry Christmas.”
“Your gift is greatly appreciated,” said the bell ringer.
I started walking backward, catching the eye of the bell ringer for a few seconds before we disconnected. Again, I felt unsettled as I drove home.
After I got home, I told Elizabeth: “Giving the fifty dollars was a good thing to do, but I don’t think it was the answer. Suppose that the answer has nothing to do with the bells, Christmas, the spirit of giving, but something else?”
“What else could it be?” she asked.
“Maybe it’s got something to do with the man — the bell ringer.”
“You said you felt he was different?”
“Yes. He was different. Maybe he knows something.”
“If you hear the bells again then maybe you should check him out,” she said.
Copyright 1997 by J J Dewey
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