A number of years ago, I saw an announcement looking for bell ringers for a hand bell choir that was starting up at my church. I remember being interested, but also being mindful of the fact that despite my love for listening to music, I did not know the slightest thing about reading music.
As I was contemplating whether I should contact the music director, I thought of my younger brother, Douglas, who had passed away a month earlier. August would be approaching soon and he would have been turning 38. He was such a kid at heart and always had a “can do” attitude and a sense of excitement, enthusiasm and optimism about him. Some, even I at times, thought him to be naïve, but in hindsight, I now know that he was anything but naïve. He was living life to the fullest, and what a blessing, especially because in 37 years, one could say that Douglas lived a full life.
As I sat there, bell choir announcement in hand, I could picture his beautiful face with that mischievous grin and sense his gentle, loving soul nudging me to ignore the voice that was saying, “You don’t even know how to read music!” Nudging me to try something totally new; not to sing a new song, but to ring a new song.
That night I sent a message to the music director introducing myself and explaining my interest and that I could not read music at all. I was pleasantly surprised when her response indicated that despite my music reading ability (or inability in this case) I was welcome; she could teach me what I needed to know. With that, I decided to give it a try, and what a blessing it has been.
In the time I have been in the bell choir, not only have I learned to read music with the help of a music director who is probably one of the most patient, encouraging, and optimistic people I know, but I have also become part of a supportive, nurturing, lively and fun group of bell ringers. I could have never imagined what a gift being in the bell choir was going to be when I first started. In fact, I got off to a bumpy start. I felt completely inept in the beginning. It did not come easy to me at all and that was hard for me to accept; I had never really stuck with anything that I was not particularly good at before this experience. Looking back, I feel so grateful for the patience and encouragement of the music director as well as for being part of a group that was, and continues to be, pretty much easy going as we all learned to ring better and work together.
All of that seems so long ago now. When I think about it though, I am so glad that I gave the thing that initially seemed ridiculous to even try, a chance…a ring. Whether at rehearsal or during Mass I find it so uplifting now; it puts a hop in my step and joy in my heart. Who would have ever thought I would find ringing bells so peaceful and calming, and so life giving? I certainly did not…but my brother did!
Thank you Douglas, for teaching your older sister (I know, barely that much older) a new song. Every time we ring a piece that has a mallet section, I use the mallets as if they are drumsticks and imagine you and me, again, as children, playing the drums together.