I’m using the month of September to talk about a few old phrases. Scroll back for burning the candle at both ends and burying the hatchet. Another lovely phrase I’ve heard people say is, “I’ll be there with bells on”. When I was a kid, I didn’t really understand this one. Turns out, I’m not alone. The origin of the phrase isn’t clear. However, the leading theory is that it has to do with the bells that used to adorn horses pulling wagons. The headdresses that fit across the eyes and sides of the horses’s cheeks had little bells.
They served a few purposes:
1. They kept flies away from the horses’ eyes
2. They announced the wagon’s arrival and helped the driver to avoid collisions with pedestrians because the bells would cause them to step out of the way.
3. They were sometimes used for payment if another traveler had to aid in a wagon repair.
These are the bells that inspired the song “Jingle Bells”. Arriving is one thing, arriving with bells is that little bit of extra that meant a successful trip or a little bit more fun.
When I think of “being there with bells on”, I think of those friends who are always a little extra in their support. They’re the friends that keep you going, keep you from believing lies, and keep you sane.
A few weeks ago, my pastor talked about stocking the pantry with the right kids of friends. One of the kinds of friends he suggested we need is a “hype man”. It’s the friend who announces your entrance. The one who talks you up to others. The one who arrives with bells on.
I have friends like this. They’re the first ones to RSVP when I have a party and they show up early, knowing I’m probably running behind. They take over the preparation while I run upstairs to change and throw some make-up on. These are the friends you never have to work to impress. They love you just the way you are. They’re bells-on friends.
How can we be a “bells-on” friend?
1. You can’t with everyone:
That’s a tough thing to consider, but you can’t be the hype man for more than a few friends. There just isn’t time in the day. Of course you can be an encourager. (I’ve written about this many times before.) Being an encourager can become your norm with practice, but to be a true bells-on friend, you have to make choices. Prayerfully consider those God is leading you to cheer for. Those who you will make time to show up for things and to be a little extra in your arrival. If you’re married or have kids, the people in your home should be among those you arrive with bells on for.
2. You have to prioritize:
We’ve all had those conversations. “It’s was so good running into you. Let’s get together soon!” Sometimes, I walk away thinking, “Probably not.” And it’s not because I don’t like the person, but because I know I’ll get distracted and forget to reach out. There are a few friends I see on social media who are killing as bells-on friends. I see post after post of one coming through for the other and I admire that kind of commitment because being a bells-on friend requires prioritizing. You have to say no to things order to have time to be that kind of friend.
3. You have to take interest:
I remember being in college and watching enough Sports Center to impress my boyfriend (now husband) with football facts. He learned early on not to ask follow up questions, because I’d just repeat the facts I’d memorized. We laugh about it now, but I knew he liked football, so I spent time learning a few things in order to connect with him. Now I actually like football. So, when your friend has something new in his or her life, spend a little bit of time learning about it. Do it so you can connect and be a bells-on friend. Who knows? You might ultimately enjoy whatever you’re using to connect with your friend.
If you’re too proud, you may not be able to be the kind of friend that shows up with bells on. Earlier, I said you will be a little “extra” in your support. That may look a little embarrassing. (Think of the mom wearing multiple sports buttons to show up for/embarrass their kid). When you show up with bells on for a friend, you’re willing to look a little silly in order for your friend to feel loved and celebrated.
We all want friends like this. Sometimes, that starts with learning to be that kind of friend to others. So, the next time a friend asks you to go to a craft club, or Bible study, or watch them do stand up, say, “I’ll be there with bells on” and then show up. Who knows? You might enjoy it as much as they do.