Monday, December 19, 2011
When I was growing up, one of our neighborhood traditions was the annual caroling extravaganza. Members of our family (immediate, and perhaps augmented by a cousin or two) would leave the house for our next door neighbors. We would sing a carol or two, collect those neighbors, move the next house and repeat. On and on, around the neighborhood. By the end of the evening, we would have grown from four or five to several dozen. And we would return to our house for cookies (my mother would have been baking like mad for weeks!) and wassail.
I must admit, I can't remember hearing carolers outside my house since I left home. On the other hand, I can attest to the magic of caroling -- or simply of singing together. It might be magical because many of us do it so rarely. Think! When do we sing together in large groups? It may occur in worship settings for some (but not all) religious traditions. For many folks, it only happens at sporting events IF folks actually sing the national anthem or the team's fight song (or "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" at baseball games).
Sociologist Robert Putnam wrote, several years ago now, in his book Bowling Alone, of the phenomenon of a decreasing participation in league bowling (another fond memory of my childhood!). He used that as an example of our increasing disconnectedness from one another in our society -- not only from our neighbors, but also from our democratic structures. I don't intend to draw the same conclusions from the absence of carolers outside my home; there can be MANY reasons for that.
I have seen, however, over the last couple of day at the University of Denver, the joy of folks gathering together to sing songs of the season. Whether it was "I Have A Little Dreydl" or "Silent Night" or "Jingle Bells", the smiles and sense of camaraderie were extraordinary. No-one was asking about political or religious differences; we were bound by something simple, something joyful: singing together.
Caroling alone? I hope not. Find someone to sing with over the next few weeks. It doesn't make ANY difference whether you're good at it. [I was at an staff function earlier this week where we WERE bowling! Few of us were any good--boy, have I forgotten a lot!--but we had a great time!] Recapture the joy of song. And if you need a reason, just say "I think it will do us all some good!"