A day at the kettle in Eagle | VailDaily.com

A day at the kettle in Eagle

EVE bell ringer2 KA 12-09-07

EAGLE, Colorado ” Spending a couple of hours ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s kettle at the Eagle City Market isn’t like a television situation comedy.

Remember the “Friends” episode when Phoebe manned a kettle at a prominent Manhattan corner? People threw buttons, used gum and cigarette butts in her kettle.

One guy even used the kettle to make change. Phoebe eventually mounted a tyrannical defense of her kettle which resulted in her bell being taken away.

Real life seldom resembles “Friends.”

In actuality, the two-hour bell ringing shift offered a good chance to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was also a great study of human behavior.

Most people drop some cash in the kettle; but some folks pointedly avoid eye-contact with the bell ringer. They scurry past as quickly as possible.

Other people make a promise to donate on the way out or apologetically explain they already gave at another location. But those bell ringers are merely community volunteers, not morality police. While I appreciated the conversation, donating is a totally personal decision.

Many parents use that red kettle as a opportunity to teach young children that giving is an important part of the holidays. And every one of those little kids looked proud to be dropping a few coins or some dollar bills into the red pot.

The people I was most fascinated by were the young adults with prominent tattoos and facial piercing who dropped $5 bills in the bucket. A favorite donor was the motorcycle guy, who was well-decorated with tattoos and decked out in riding gear and lots of chains.

“I may look rough and mean, but I’ve got a heart of gold,” he announced, as he dropped a handful of dollar bills into the pot.

You’d think that the folks in fur-trimmed coats would be the generous ones ” and most are. But it was the people who obviously had less who were more willing to share their pocket change. Even the high school-aged boys with the backwards baseball caps and super-baggy blue jeans dropped money in the bucket.

The best donation of the day came from a fellow I have known for a more than 20 years. For the past two decades he’s been working on his curmudgeon-esque demeanor and he’s about got it perfected. He did donate to the kettle, but not before haranguing me because he wanted a guarantee that I didn’t just pocket the cash. I’m not sharing his name. He knows who he is. Thanks.

During the course of the afternoon I had the chance to talk with a friend who had worked for Catholic Charities. She told me about how much the Salvation Army helps local people and about how grateful families are for the assistance. She talked about one woman who, in a down-and-out-year, was a recipient of the Adopt-A-Family program. When this woman got back on her feet, she started adopting families herself.

Several people who at one time received assistance from the Salvation Army have in later years taken a shift ringing the bell. My friend believes it’s important that people give back what they can.

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