It’s widely published and commonly believed that human beings only use about 10 percent of their brains. “Goodness!,” the people remark-or…you know… they use a slang term that isn’t from the 50s. “Yo homez-that’s wack.” (Yeah, I went there.). But whether scientific truth or fallacy, this idea begs the question: If I can be a functioning member of society with only 10 percent of my brain, imagine what I could accomplish if I were using the other 90 percent!
Similarly, I think we’d all put out a slang term- vintage or otherwise, if we really considered how much of our heart we use. And more significantly, how much of it we don’t. In addition to working full time at a desk, I have a part time job as a professional Christmas Caroler. This is my 5th season- spreading joy and cheer and holiday music at theme parks like Disney and Knotts, but also getting up close and personal with patrons at Victorian-esque restaurants. This gives my quartet the opportunity to take requests for favorite songs, but also to experience first-hand some cherished holiday moments.
What always brings a tear to my fancy fake-eyelashes is how giving some of our patrons are with their emotions. They beam at the sound of our handbells. They gasp in awe of our harmonies. And, oftentimes, they cry. Women. Men. People of all ages, races and social statuses. Many families like to indulge us and announce that they come to the fancy restaurants just to see us each year. They smile and listen intently as we sing their favorites and they thank us graciously.
But in addition to the things they tell us with their voices, they tell us a story with their eyes. The tale of Christmasses past and to come. Of loved ones left behind. Dreams for the future. The feeling of not knowing if the ground ahead of you will hold, but the certain hope that this present moment of joy will keep you going long enough to figure out what to do. I see that one the most- or maybe I just notice it because I understand it.
We have an important job as carolers. And an incredible opportunity to remember how good people really are at their core. Personally, I forget that sometimes. More than I’m comfortable admitting.
My favorite part about Christmas is that it re-teaches me every year to use more than 10 percent of my heart. It gives me the opportunity to wish people a happy (holi)day without worrying about being that ‘too perky” girl. To watch sappy movies without apology or explanation that it’s that time of the month and I’m feeling emotional. To make architectural structures out of graham crackers and icing on a Saturday night instead of putting on my sluttiest outfit to go grind with strangers in a sweaty club. Actually, I don’t plan on doing either of those last two things this season, but the former sounds better any day!
I have come face to face this year, in particular, with a lot of the reasons I only feel like I use a percentage of my heart. I remember myself at eleven, the last time I remember feeling like a child. I remember being a little too loud- a little too joyous at times. I have a few silly, but vivid memories that come to mind: joining my mother and sister in a living-room workout with Richard Simmon’s “Sweatin to the Oldies” on the VHS player— getting super pumped dancing along and being met with ridicule instead of encouragement. Greeting two friends on the first day of sixth grade with a hug after not having seen them for three years and their response, “why are you so excited.” Sorry mean-girls-in-training, I had this funny idea that we were going to be friends. It hadn’t occurred to me that they’d already become sullen teenagers.
More often than not, I’m prepared to deal with sullen adults. But from now until my last gig on New Years Eve, I will wear my green velveteen and smile the way I have since 1874 (the story my quartet tells people when they ask where we’re from). Maybe this year will be the one I return to my roots and get a little too excited for downplayed social standards, to sing like I mean it, to greet old friends and new ones and forget how little of my heart and brain I am encouraged to access. Happy Holidays!