A well known Christmas carol “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is said to have been written in October 1962, as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Because of the emotion surrounding the Crisis at the time, Gloria Shayne Baker, the composer, said neither she nor Noel Regney, the lyricist, were able to perform it; “Our little song broke us up. You must realize there was a threat of nuclear war at the time.”
Though the song is intended to be a simple Christmas carol, contained within the lyrics are some life lessons we all could stand to learn. As the song moves from stanza to stanza, the lyricist asks three important questions: Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear? Do you know what I know?
It is often the case, amid all we live through, that our seeing, hearing and knowing are compromised. We get so caught up in the frenzy touted by the media, the frustrations accompanying relationships, the fears of the future looming large or the uncertainties we face moving through the journey of life. Sometimes, it’s important to just take a moment to see, hear and know.
In the first stanza of “Do You Hear What I Hear,” the lyrics read, “Do you see what I see? A star, a star, dancing in the night…” As our days revolve into night, it’s always good to reflect on what we have experienced and find the “star” that shone the brightest — a kindness extended our way, a moment of reflection or thankfulness, an opportunity to sit and visit with someone or a simple word of encouragement. Whatever that “star” might be, latch onto its brightness and follow it wherever it may go.
The second stanza of the Christmas carol reads, “Do you hear what I hear? A song, a song, high above the trees…” It’s easy to allow what is negative in our lives to drown out the positive. And, when we do, we can no longer hear the sweet melody of life’s “song”— those moments when the pitch, the volume, the tone and timbre are exactly what we need to lift our spirits from the valley and raise them to the mountaintops. Whatever that “song” might be, latch onto its melodious tune and sing it through whatever struggles you may face.
The song’s third stanza reads, “Do you know what I know? A child, a child shivers in the cold…” The truth is, sometimes life is easier when we aren’t aware of the difficulties of those around us because once we are, we must act on that knowledge. Knowing someone is hungry demands I feed them; knowing someone is sad demands I bring them good cheer; knowing someone is alone demands I offer my company; knowing someone needs a friend demands I befriend them… Whatever it is you “know,” latch onto its truth and allow it to guide you into doing what is good and right.
As we move into the final verse of the song, the lyrics read, “Listen to what I say; pray for peace people everywhere…”
Just as the song lyricist, Regney, and the composer, Baker, did, we can find truth and solace in the most unlikely places. Listen to what I say… Let that star brighten your day, let that song lull you to sleep, and let that knowledge lead you on a path of goodness. As the saying goes, “when you can’t see ahead, do the next right thing.” Listen to what I say…