The Lone Caroler

The Lone Caroler

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

The Lone Caroler

The mall’s parking garage was so packed that we had to drive around and around, up and down several levels, before we found a space. Of course, I should have expected as much. After all, this was the week before Christmas at the busiest shopping mall in the county.

Jumping out of the car, I held tight to my purse in one hand and my shopping list in the other. Screeching brakes, tooting horns, shouting customers, banging trunk lids, gunning motors, blaring loudspeaker music—what clamor! I could hardly think. And I certainly needed to think straight to plan my mad dashes from store to store. So much to do and so little time in which to do it.

As I rushed to the garage elevator, somehow through all that noise I heard a strange chrrr, chrrr. It almost had a rhythm to it. But where was the sound coming from?

Looking up, I saw a hole in the garage wall. Nestled inside was a small brown bird, shaped like a chickadee, but more sparrowlike in color. In fact, contrasted against all the red and green and gold of the season, the bird was absolutely dull and ordinary. To look at, that is, but not to listen to. The tiny creature was singing its heart out.

Chrrr, chrrr . . .

There, among the jarring sounds of racing cars and people, I realized it was responding to music on the loudspeaker. A Christmas carol? Why, yes—“Silent Night.”

Though I was very close to him now, he didn’t try to fly, but kept pouring out his heart with complete abandon. Perfect in rhythm and pitch, he syncopated each measure of the three-quarter-time melody, coming in only on the last two beats. As in, “Si- (chrrr, chrrr), night (chrrr, chrrr), ho- (chrrr, chrrr), night (chrrr, chrrr).” Almost calypso style.

I didn’t recognize his species. Many kinds of birds winter here in Southern California, and I’m not a “birder.” But in the crowded parking garage that day, he alone took time to rejoice in and praise the reason for the season.

So I stopped and joined him.

He didn’t seem to mind the cars whizzing by us or that my voice was cracked and weak and off-key. Never had “sleep in heavenly peace” seemed so out of place; it was neither night nor silent.

Only when the carol ended did we both hurry off to our respective duties. But as I headed into the jam-packed mall, I, too, had wings. And a glowing smile. “Christ our savior is born.” Hallelujah!

Bonnie Compton Hanson

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