In our town, there are lots of old, stone churches with bells. The bells chime and peal every Sunday and at various other points throughout the week. And every time I hear them, I have to stop and listen.

Something about that sound, ringing out and carrying on the wind, tugs at my heart.

The bells I hear today also rang out in those very church steeples 50 or 100 or more years ago. In fact, the sound is the same as what’s been ringing out in nations around the globe for centuries. It connects me to generations past, to traditions that originated in ages gone by. To think of all the meetings and masses, weddings and funerals, baptisms, confirmations, and first communions!

The bells serve to call people together—at least they did, before we all wore watches or carried cell phones to give us the time. Folks around town would hear the bells, and stop their chores and other activities to join together in a common purpose—to worship, mark a friend’s passing, or maybe conduct town business. As the bells toll, I am reminded of the importance of community and grateful for the sense of belonging that comes with it.

And the bells make me more aware of the passing of time. Each hour marked by the bells’ peals becomes a moment in the past that cannot be reclaimed.

The bells stir in me a nostalgia about the past, while reminding me how fleeting life is, how precious each minute ought to be. I cannot help but give thought to how my life has been shaped over the past four decades, even as I wonder what will transpire before the next time that familiar sound floats on the breeze through my window.

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