It doesn't matter how cool you are, when you work with a group of college students, and you are old enough to be the mother of any one of them, there are bound to be a few generational gaps that leave you scratching your head in befuddlement. It didn't happen that often to me, but occasionally it would, and for a short time, I worked with a cute little Cajun student who loved to clue me in when I had left the conversation and my mind was wandering off in left field. She would say "Ding, ding, ding, earth calling Mrs. Annie" and I would snap back to attention. She loved to ring the bell at my inattentiveness.
At summer camp, the ringing of the bell orders our entire day. We always have a designated "bell-ringer" who is responsible for ringing the bell on time for each event. Otherwise, we would have teachers letting their girls go five minutes early and disrupting another class as they gallop by on their way to being first in line for lunch. Oddly enough, that inequity does not sit well with hot and sweaty girls who are stuck with the teacher who keeps them sitting still for the entire 35 minutes of class. So we ring the bell, and life proceeds in a (somewhat) orderly procession.
I want to be a bell ringer. Not necessarily the kind of bell ringer who sounds her bell to make pretty music and spread joy. I want to be the more practical kind of bell ringer, one who calls attention to things that might be missed, the one whose tolls signify transition, or movement to a different activity. I want to be the kind of bell ringer who stays in the background, the kind who rings the bell like an alarm, calling others to look at this, or to stop and think.
But lately it seems this bell ringer has gotten caught up in the fact that she does not make beautiful music like some bell ringers do, that she is practical and (maybe) useful, but not exactly melodious. She feels imperfect. She feels broken. And sometimes, when that happens, she falls silent. There are bells that call her to silence, and bells that call her to stop and pray. There are bells that call her to action. And then there are bells that call her to stop and think. Can't you hear them?...Ding, ding, ding...
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
It's how the light gets in.
-from "Anthem" (1992)