A second chance
by Dave Hudson, Major –
Since learning the story behind the song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” has become one of my all-time favorite Christmas carols. When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the words to his poem, America was still months away from Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. His poem reflected the prior years of the war’s despair.
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
The words of the song flowed from the experience of Longfellow involving the tragic death of his wife, Fanny, and the crippling injury of his son, Charles, from war wounds. In the following verse you can sense his pain and sorrow…and for a brief moment, a loss of faith.
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
However, the song ends triumphantly with the resounding confidence that, not only is God not dead, but in the end will prevail, “with peace on earth, good-will to men.”
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Recently, I met a 17-year-old woman. She has spent the last three years of her life on the run, and is now living in one of The Salvation Army’s safe houses. Unfortunately, she committed a few crimes during her time on the run, and this is her last chance before being incarcerated. I thought, as I observed her, “what a shame.” I am not sure of her family connections, or lack thereof. However, I know this is not right; she deserved better. One could say she will account for little or nothing if we were to make our final judgment now. We could easily state, “hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
After meeting this young woman, I met with some of the staff of Honolulu’s Family Intervention Services Program—Denise, Roxanne, Michael and Pauline. I listened as they spoke passionately about their program and about the young people they deal with every day. They believe in young people that others have given up on. Love and commitment exude from them toward these children. According to Pauline, “We have to take risks with them, as no one else will.” As I walked out of our safe house I thought, “the wrong shall fail, the right (shall) prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men!”
What a wonderful Christmas reminder; thank you Pauline and staff. It reminds me to thank everyone who has given me a second (third, fourth) chance.
God bless each of you and grant you a blessed Christmas.
Written just before last Christmas, December 18, 2007.