December 14, 2003
This is a letter Andy Wood wrote about his experience as a bell ringer.
Dear Friends and Family,
I wanted to take just a quick moment and share with you an experience I recently had. I was asked to volunteer the last couple days to ring the Salvation Army bell outside our local grocery store in Eagle, Colorado. At first I was hesitant to accept, because in the past I have felt awkward about seeing those bell ringers during the holidays. I never contributed t their coffers, and would usually pretend not to see them.They would most often offer a greeting and eye contact, which I would hurriedly accept and sometimes return. They made me feel uncomfortable because I wasn’t contributing. So, against my hesitant feelings, I did volunteer and signed up for the 5-6 p.m. shifts – notoriously the most busy ones.
My first day ringing, I felt at first uncomfortable asking people to donate money to the cause, although you actually do very little talking when ringing. I would offer a smile, a holiday greeting and a soft ring of the bell. I started to notice how people responded to to me. Lots were like me and hurried past pretending to be interested in something on the fat wall, never seeing me. Some would offer a quick greeting and pass me by. And some would stop, return the greeting and put money in my box. I wasn’t always bills; sometimes just whatever pocket change was handy, and lots of pennies. The kids I saw were great. They would always look and smile and wave at me, even if Mom or Dad were quickly pulling them along. (I think the Santa hat helped.) And sometimes the parents would let the kids put the money in the box, which always was a delight for them. But my favorite response received that first night was the simple, “Thanks for volunteering your time!” that I received from a woman who didn’t even contribute. After what seemed like forever, my hour was up and I gladly passed the bell off to the next volunteer.
My second night was similar to the first, but now I was a veteran bell ringer, not someone to look the other way or be embarrassed about what people thought of me. And again, I had the same types of people passing by me and my station. Some giving, some not, lots of excited children. During my hour, I started realizing that feeling uncomfortable in the past around these bell ringers wasn’t their fault, it was mine. Mine for not contributing something, anything, to the volunteers and their cause; change, a simple greeting or a holiday hello. Before I knew it my hour had passed. So my reason for this rambling story is that now during the holidays, the bell ringers are everywhere. Their cause is charity, their donation is time, and that is noble. Next time you see one, if you can’t or don’t want to donate money, that’s fine. Not all of us can. But please, for your sake and theirs, a simple hello and maybe a word of thanks.
Happy Holidays, Everyone!
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