Monday, December 14, 2009
I've been a bell ringer for over 5 years--I first began volunteering with the Salvation Army while in college. Their mission is one I can get behind 100% and around here they're the organization doing the most good. The bulk of our charitable donations go to them at Christmastime. The Red Kettle Drive provides food, shelter, hope and comfort to a lot of people in our area throughout the year. I'm proud to stand beside a kettle for a couple of hours and work for their cause.
This year Mr. T joined me kettleside for the first time. I read to him about the history of the red kettle, how William and Catherine Booth began their ministry in London in 1861. He didn't care all that much, being more interested in how bell worked and did mine make the same sounds, what was the clanger made of, if you hold the bell and ring it sounds different. Mr. T was eager to spread love Elf-style--"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." So he sang. The kid's got decent chops, but doesn't know the words so I was audience to a lot of this:
Dashing through the snow, making spirits light, in a one horse open sleigh!
Jingle bells! Jingle Bells! Jingle all the way!
I made a new rule that he could only sing songs to which he knew the words. He racked his brains and came up with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. "Maybe next year we should bring a radio so we can sing along,"
He greeted people "Merry Christmas and a ho ho ho!"
I stuck with a traditional "Merry Christmas"
People generally greeted us in return, offering special attention to the kid for giving up his Saturday afternoon for a good cause.
Nearly everyone who passed dropped money in the kettle. When I've rung alone the average donation is $1. With Mr. T at my side, it was $2. Some folks didn't drop money in and that sort of crushed the boy--but I explained that charity is optional. Maybe they have nothing to give. Maybe they've given already. Maybe they need. It's okay. In my view a bell ringer is a cheerful reminder of the reason behind Christmas, goodwill toward men and charity and love. I always greet bell ringers--even if I haven't change to spare, I at least acknowledge their presence.
Two hours is long on the legs, feet and wrists. A seasoned bell ringer knows to switch hands every fifteen minutes or so. You don't clang the bell, just a little ding-a-ling is enough racket to let everyone know you're there. Kettles with ringers make way more money than silent kettles, so it's important to honor your commitment. We were both disappointed that no one came to relieve us at the end of our shift--according to the online registration, all the shifts at that kettle had been spoken for when I signed us up. Weary, we took off our aprons, folded them and stuffed them in the sack by the kettle. In went the bells, off came our Santa hats.
Driving through the snow, in a slightly dented Momvan,
Green Girl looked at son, and asked if he had fun.
He looked at her amazed and his smile grew quite wide.
"Every year we'll ring a bell--I'll be right by your side."
Spill it, reader, what new tradition are you passing along this Christmas?