To look at my dad, you might think he was much more of a “We Three Kings Of Orient Are” kind of guy, when in fact “The Little Drummer Boy” is actually his wassail of choice. This is so much the case, that i find myself asking him almost annually to clarify which of the two it is that is actually his favorite. i seem to recall being told while growing up that his reasoning behind picking the latter over the former was due to the drumming involved. But as anyone who’s heard the song knows, there’s damned little use of actual drums throughout the arrangement, especially when in consideration of its subject matter. Now as dad is nearing his end, he’s becoming much more expressive, and is sharing a lot more of whom he really is with me. That, or i’m just finally paying attention. Either way, i can now see that what i’ve long suspected to be true really is. Dad is a bigger fan of the drummer boy, at least in part, because he feels much more kinship with that one unsure boy than he does with any and all of the three wise men.
The difference between the two is pretty stark. Whereas the kings are driven with purpose and sure in their knowledge, the little drummer boy is a straggler, who simply happens upon his miracle in lieu of actively searching it out. The kings come ready, bearing gifts that admittedly – if delivered to a child of this day in age, would most likely be exchanged before the day’s end – but are still respectful enough. The drummer boy however, comes with even less, having only a song in his heart. A little ditty that he doesn’t even recognize as having any kind of worth. And therein lies the shame, and the message, of the song. The drummer boy is valued not because the song he plays is wonderful, practiced or Billboard chart-worthy, but rather because it is of himself. Simply and solely unique to him, and possible only through him. Given freely and with more than a bit of embarrassment, of all the “gifts” given, his is the one that the babe smiles upon. His is the one that the Christ child cherishes more than even he himself does.
Like so many of us struggling through life – or more to the point, accepting ourselves during this struggle of life – the little drummer boy seeing no apparent worth to his song is an extension of how he feels about his self. And i think my dad feels that very acutely in his own life at times as well. Much more so than he’s ever previously let on to at least, both to those around him, and to himself. Knowing my own self (but not trying to project “me” onto him), i feel that dad may also have spent a good deal of his life feeling unworthy. Feeling “wrong”. Feeling like his song was without value. Seeing him as i do now, i get the feeling that dad too has struggled with the idea that Christ could love him for no apparent reason. Even though he does. And he does, not because dad played for him a Top Of The Pops hit, but simply because dad “played his best for him.” Because for Jesus, your best is exactly good enough. For many of the rest of us though – dad and myself included – it’s not even close enough to obtain a passing grade. Seeing as Jesus sits at the right hand, i suppose his opinion trumps ours, but you try and tell my dad that. My dad, who might have acted as if he were a king, but only ever felt himself to be a drummer boy. My dad, who may not realize that the kings were majestic, yet humbled by the babe. The drummer boy however, a person of seemingly little importance, was made great by this same child. All with one little smile of acceptance. The drummer boy left the scene redeemed. My dad needs to follow suit. i hope he does. He deserves to.
i’m proud of my drummer boy dad, and i fear that these days, there are far too few drummer boys left. Or put another way ’round, i fear there are far too many who would consider themselves “kings” hanging about. The problem being that these new royals are not necessarily of the wise, or even moderately shrewd, variety. While they may have crowns upon their heads, these were purchased instead of earned, bought instead of granted. Many of the crowns worn today only go to show that you can trample on the needs of the many in order to meet with your own personal desires, and simply covering yourself in gold doesn’t make you more valuable. Spewing forth catch-phrases eschewing positive thoughts doesn’t make you an actual force for change either. And beating others over the head with how “awesome” you are doesn’t necessarily make it so. If you want to be more valuable, give instead of taking, even when no one’s looking. Especially when no one’s looking. Should you desire to be a force for change, then change your own life instead of others, conducting yourself in an ethical fashion. Even the times when it doesn’t work to your advantage to do so. If you want to be awesome, start doing awesome things within your scope of talent for those who could use your help, and place others first. Not just your “others”, but others “others” as well. Do the little drummer boys of this world need to suck it up and learn some self-love? By all means. But the new “kings” would also do well to turn it down a notch, and start spreading love around instead. Not just in word, but deed as well.
It’s the final week before Christmas, and this is my third-to last post about the holiday season. Well, for this year at any rate. i apologize for my brief soap-boxian moment just now, but it is only because my hope – albeit wholly naive to the point of being absolutely moronic to even voice in public – is that all the wise men, the kings and the drummer boys of this world can use this week ahead to ready ourselves. Not so much for the birth of the newborn king – as that will come whether we’re ready or not, and regardless of our acceptance of it – but rather, to actually put into action all the peace, love and goodwill spoken of so freely during this time of year as a result of his coming. We don’t need to be perfect at it, we just need to agree to it, to keep at it daily and to do our best always. And in turn, our best will be exactly good enough.
Heck, stranger things have happened…