I was riding the Metro home after a particularly long and taxing day at work. The pall of gloom that seemed to hang over my fellow passengers didn't really help my already foul mood. Then at Foggy Bottom, four black men wearing Santa hats got on. Between glancing at the gossip page in the Express and trying not to stare at an extensively pierced person in front of me I realized that they were a music troupe I bumped into from time to time.
They sing at Dupont Circle (right outside Buffalo Billiards) on sultry summer nights. One night we waltzed on the pavement as they sang Its a Wonderful Life with a hip hop beat. Another time they were singing Seasons of Love outside Gallery Place in Chinatown just as spring was blooming into summer. And last winter they seemed to be at Metro Station every time I changed trains there. DC is a small town.
Now here they were. And they were singing again. Those who know me well know that I abhor the tinny music that seems to be the staple of the holiday season. But this was different. I have never heard such a beautiful, joyous or heartfelt version of Silent Night before. Even the most overplayed songs sounded meaningful when sung by those four underfed, poorly clad men. There was power and joy and love in those voices; voices that obviously belonged to those who had experienced less fortune than a lot of us.
Some of my travel companions seemed irritated to be distracted from their reading, others turned up the volume of their Ipods. A few of us listened. And at the risk of sounding maudlin I have to say - for the first time ever, I got a sense of what this season is actually supposed to mean.