Thirteen of us went out caroling tonight. Rain had started to fall as we launched into “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” outside of Mary’s door. She joined in with us as we sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” and was visibly cheered and appreciative as we waved our goodnights after “Silent Night.”
Sharing a bond through hymns of our Savior’s birth on a drizzly Christmas night brought back feelings of one evening years ago which I continue to hold dearly. In college I worked as a tour guide at Disneyland, and as seasonal workers (“cast members,” in Disney parlance), we were asked to work either Christmas Day or New Years Day. Most others wanted Christmas Day off. But since my family is non-religious and my mother cared much more about us being home for New Years Day (see yesterday’s post), I usually made my supervisor happy by opting to work on Christmas Day. I actually was always happy to work Christmas Day and found it to be my favorite day of the year at work.
Walking onstage early in the morning before the park opened, Main Street looked like a little turn-of-the-century town waking up. The street sweepers in all-white ice cream suits were pushing remaining water on the sidewalks with big brooms while the clerks in Gibson Girl outfits and woolen capes were rolling up window shades. The Dickens quartet was rehearsing their carols and warming up to greet the opening hour crowd. Hissing and billowing, the steam train was ready to start circling the park. I loved taking in all the preparatory activity and walking by and around the towering Christmas tree, drinking in the sight of the decorations and smell of pine, as I crossed Town Square on my way to report for “line up” at the tour gardens.
The guests who came to Disneyland on Christmas Day usually were families who saved for the special treat to celebrate Christmas that year. They were without exception cheerful and grateful that we were working so they could have their holiday at Disneyland. Believe me, usually guests were not that pleasant.
This one Christmas night in particular when I ended up working late. Sometimes after returning from leading a tour, we were asked if we wanted to stay and answer the information phones: “What are your hours?” “What time is the parade?” “How much is parking?” Most other guides did not want to answer the phones, but I was always willing to make a few more dollars by working as many hours as possible.
By the time I reached the end of my shift, that night had become cold and misty, and the park had emptied out. As I came out from the tour guide office next to the City Hall and started walking towards the nearest “cast entrance” to the backstage area by “Mr. Lincoln,” I saw the Dickens carolers standing silently in front of the Emporium, without a guest in sight. When they saw me, the only person on Main Street, they immediately glanced at each other and launched into a carol. And another. And another. I stood there while they sang to me, and for me, their one-person audience. I forgot about being tired and hungry and cold, until at last they started to move towards their entrance, behind the fire station, with waves of their hands, while I carried on to mine, waving back, realizing again how tired and hungry and cold I was.
The warmth of that connection with other cast members in the winter’s mist has stayed with me for over 30 years. I will add to that the memories of tonight’s Christmas caroling with Akemi and good friends, touching Mary’s hands through the glass of her front door as I wished her a merry Christmas, and feeling again the power of what can be done to uplift the spirits of just one other. For after all, isn’t that part of what His example for us is about?