“Peace on Earth, Good-Will to Men”

People ask me where I get the ideas for these columns each month.  As with most things in life it is a process that involves a combination of accidental discoveries and intentional efforts.  It is always in the back of my mind while going through the motions and actions of life and I try to stay alert for a morsel of an idea or an inspiring event.  When I decide on a subject I do some research to validate.  No one wants to read the off kilter rants of a Midwest car dealer, so it’s important to have legitimate sources that concur with my thinking.

As the Holidays draw near inspirations surround us all.  In fact, one has to work at it pretty hard if he wants to be a Scrooge.  Christmas Carols alone offer up song after song of inspiring thoughts and truths.  One of my favorites inspired the title of this month’s column. 

The lyrics to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” mean a lot to me and the music is beautiful.  As a car dealer my company and I are in one of the most competitive retail businesses known to man.  It calls for shrewd management and sometimes difficult business decisions.  The car business can nearly be warlike.  While I have compassion for my fellow citizens and at StateWide we do our part to give back to the community, we still have to run a lean operation even in the best of times – and these are not the best of times. 

The words to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” were written as a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the American Civil War.  Those were ruthless times when brother fought against brother for what they both believed was right and what they both believed was sanctioned by God.  The original poem reflects that time.  A few verses are no longer used in the song because they are so specific to the Civil War.

Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

As violent and troubled a time as it was, Longfellow went on to set to verse the good in the ringing of those bells.  Some believe he was referring to the North and South when he wrote below “The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail”.  I prefer to believe he was talking much broader about love and mankind and the eternal struggle between Right and Wrong being resolved with Peace and Good-Will.  It is a message we should heed today.  No matter what religious beliefs we hold, it is the time of year to lend a helping hand, to assist someone less fortunate than ourselves, to offer peaceful resolutions to difficult divisions.  It is the time and it is the season for Peace on Earth, Good-Will to Men.

            Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

December 2010