Today I got to be a Salvation Army Bell Ringer! And our Engineer did it with me! And I checked #19 off my list! And it was an experience we will not soon forget!
Volunteer to Be a Salvation Army Bell Ringer
You see them every Christmas out in front of the stores wearing their bright red aprons standing next to the bright red kettle. You might even hear them before you see them.
For me it's always been a "sign" that Christmas is here.
When I was working on my Cherish Christmas list, I thought it would be interesting to volunteer to be a bell ringer. I had it in the back of my mind, but had not done any research to find out about it.
Then I got an email from a local homeschooling group who had committed to taking care of a red kettle for a day and were asking for families to sign up to take a shift. Our family couldn't do it that day, but that email gave me the nudge I needed to look into volunteering.
It turns out they have a very simple process. You just go to this Salvation Army Ring Bells site, pick your city, location, time, and sign up. It's really that easy. It took me less than five minutes.
Our Engineer and I started our morning off with Algebra II, just like any other morning, but instead of moving on to English, we bundled up and headed out to do something we had never done before.
When we got to the grocery store, the Salvation Army guys gave us red aprons to wear and we each got a jingling bell to ring. They even gave us a "back up bell". They hooked the bright red kettle to the stand, and we began ringing our bells.
It was a chilly 45 degrees today, which in Rosie world is very very cold. But I wasn't going to let that dampen my spirit. I was bundled up in a coat, scarf, and gloves. Our Engineer recently had surgery when he broke his finger. He has a pin sticking out of it while the bone heals. We didn't think about it until this morning, but there was no way to get a glove on that hand. So, he wore one glove and kept the broken hand in his pocket for most of the session.
Yes, he volunteered to be a bell ringer even though he had a hand in a brace. He was a real trouper today! And I was very proud of him.
We smiled and wished people "Merry Christmas". We rang our bells. We waved at little ones. We nodded and said "Good Morning." We thanked those who gave. We let several little guys and gals take a turn at ringing the bells. And I cherished this experience with my son.
Here's what I came away with today: There are a lot of wonderful, kind, generous, caring people in this world. There are people who take the time to bless others with their words, their money, or both. There are people who feel bad they don't have more to give. There are people who are uncomfortable. There are people who are annoyed. There are people who won't make eye contact. Sometimes people can even be a bit rude. There are people who are hurting, in need, or maybe both.
I came away with compassion for each person I saw today.
While I stood there ringing that bell, I really only had one thing to do and that was to watch the people going in and out of the store. How often do I just rush in, rush through, and rush out of the grocery store? In a word: Always.
Do I look at the people? Do I take time to notice the elderly couple leaning on each other as they slowly make their way through the parking lot? Do I notice the young mother carrying a little one in a sling around her while trying to keep another one seated in the cart? Do I notice the woman in the thin jacket shivering as she hurries inside? Do I notice the worker with the scarf wrapped around his face while he gathers the carts from the parking lot? Do I notice the man with the sad eyes? Do I notice the people all around me?
Not like I did today.
It was such an amazing experience to take the time to really look at people and react to them. Many of them wished us well with a "Good Morning" or "Merry Christmas". Some even thanked us! One gentleman stopped and asked our Engineer if I made him do this or if he had volunteered. He politely told the man that he had volunteered and wanted to do it. The man's face broke into a huge smile and he shook our Engineer's hand. Then he told us he had been a bell ringer himself.
Our favorite moment of the morning came at the end of our shift. The Salvation Army guys were actually a little late in coming back to relieve us. But I'm glad they were or we would have missed out on the cutest little guy. He was probably 3 or 4. When he came out of the store with his mom, he had a crisp $1 bill in his hand. He was SO excited. You could see it on his face. His eyes sparkled as he stuffed his money in the kettle. He was actually shaking with excitement. Oh if all people could give with such enthusiasm!
As soon as he made sure his donation was in the kettle he turned to me with a huge grin on his face. I could tell he wanted to ask me something, so I offered to let him ring my bell. He yelled out "YES!" before I could finish asking. (His mom said that he had been wanting to ring that bell from the moment he spotted us as they entered the store.)
Then he turned to our Engineer and asked if he could ring his bell as well. It was SO cute. Our Engineer gave him the bell and the little guy shook both bells as hard and loud as he could. Then he raised his hands over his head and instructed us to "do it just like this". After he returned the bells to us, he skipped happily all the way to his car. If only we could all experience the joy in Christmas like this little guy!
I'm going to leave you with one final thought from today. When you walk past a bell ringer, please take a moment to look at them. Smile. Wish them well. Don't just walk by and act like you don't see them. They are not judging if you give something or not. They are just there to Ring the Salvation Army Christmas Bell. And I promise...they are taking the time to see you.
Only 12 days to go...
Have a Blessed Christmas!