We have a soaring and lovely bell tower on our campus. Everyday at 5:00 p.m., a student climbs the steep, circling stairs to play the carillon. Students choose what to play. Sometimes it is classical music or pop, sometimes “Happy Birthday.” The music is always lovely, those giant bells singing out, but we hear it all the time and so it often fades into the background, an unappreciated gift from anonymous hands.
This afternoon I was walking across campus when the bells began. The music was “The Star Spangled Banner.” It made me think about baseball games and the Fourth of July, about veterans at parades saluting when the marching band goes by with the flag. The music played and, on campus, people were sitting on benches reading, walking with friends and laughing and talking, getting ready to leave work for the day, making plans for the evening. I don’t know if they were paying much attention to the music or not; certainly I did not see anyone saluting or placing a hand on heart. But the ordinary, business-as-usual activities seemed to be a good form of patriotism, a good way to celebrate freedom and the preciousness of life in the kind of country we want to have.
So we all went on with whatever it was we were doing, and all the time the sweet music of the bells was floating like a blessing over our heads in the blue September sky.