Today, the Bell played a significant part in the life of one of my clients and a smaller, but no less important part in the lives of about 20 others in the office. But before I get to that, what thoughts does the ringing of bells conjure up?
• Big Ben – deep, sonorous
• Liberty Bell – independence
• School Bell – dragging you away from play
• Wedding Bells – uniting two people
According to the History of Bells website, “Bells are one of the most influential percussion instruments, whose powerful sound and simplicity in communication managed to become one of the most important instruments in the world”.
It goes on to say that “earliest examples of bells can be traced to ancient China, some 4000 years ago”. Travelling to all the corners of Europe over the next few centuries they were popularised by the Venerable Bede in the 8th Century when he “introduced the tradition of ringing bells at funerals”.
Today bells are everywhere, acting as a symbol of the changes in our lives. In my work it has equal significance. Like wedding bells, usually depicted as tied together at the top with a bow, the “Job Start Bell” represents the ‘marriage’ of employee to employer.
My job is to place the long term unemployed into sustainable employment. When one of our clients gets a job they are encouraged to ring the bell. In that one, two, three or more rings you have mass communication that goes beyond words. The Ringer is usually beaming from ear to ear. All the staff clap and cheer loudly and the other clients look on, nodding wisely. For those who’ve never heard it done before, this little scene usually ensues:
Client: “Why are they ringing that bell and why is everyone cheering?”
Advisor: “That person has just got a job”.
Client: “Can I ring it when I get a job?”
A body language expert would have a field day cataloguing and categorising each of our apprentice campanologist’s approach to this small exercise. There’s the:
• Shy One
• Bewildered One
• The REALLY Happy One
• The Quietly Confident One
• The Loudly Confident One – looking like Ali after winning a fight
• The “I just can’t do it” One
Today my client was The REALLY Happy One. With her rings she not only announced the change in her life but in the lives of all the people in that room and the lives of all the people she knows.
Some have been known to call the ringing of the “Job Start Bell” a cliché, I say: “When the Job Start Bell rings, my client get their wings”. (Apologies to It’s A Wonderful Life.)