Monday, December 14, 2009

a ringer

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?


  1. What a great thing to do with Mr. T!

    This year:

    G will help Pete and me stuff stockings for the first time.

    Both girls will take larger roles in our baking.

    We will visit the food bank together as a family.

  2. Love it! We took part in the Adopt a Family program through our county. Kids had a blast shopping for gifts & wrapping them.

  3. We have left our old traditions behind, so we're trying to keep the good stuff, make some new stuff, try stuff out... And OH YES, I will take pictures in London! I was there on the weekend, and took some but haven't time to download and post yet...

  4. What a wonderful story.

    We are cookie bakers, then we load our red flyer with sweet treats and visit the neighbors. My kids are starting to understand that our neighborhood is filled with elderly people who may not be able to see their grandchildren or great grandchildren at the holidays, and that our visiting time is probably a more important gift than the sweets. A child's smile is a sure cure for loneliness.

    I love that you brought your son along for bell-ringing. In our town, there is an anonymous fellow (the papers call him "Secret Santa") who wraps a gold coin in a dollar bill and drops some *real* treasure into 2-3 kettles each year.

    - Julia

  5. Love it. We have a variety of traditions including shopping for Angel Tree gift recipients. We participate in a community bake sale to benefit those in need, contribute goodies for parties in appreciation of those who serve in our schools and church, donate books to our local children's hospital, and help out with our church festival. It's a pleasure when one of the kids takes a particular interest in choosing a task or project that will benefit someone else, but it's also a great way to spend time together.

  6. What a great thing to do, really impressed!

    New traditions this year - C at 6 has really started thinking about giving to others, so we made beaded ornaments for her friends, and we'll make cookies for her classmates and teacher. (Chocolate chip, the Czechs have never met them, but once they do, they love them!)

  7. That is so awesome. Our kids are all adults, but this year Irv and I skipped our Christmas parties and grab bags at work and bought stuff for our local food pantry. Next year if things go well, I would like to adopt a family and buy everything on their Christmas Wish Lists. I think that would be awesome. If our kids agree, we will each buy each other one small gift to open and the rest of what we would normally spend will go for our "family".

    We are never too old to learn the true meaning of the holiday season.


  8. Love the story! We've done different things over the years - can collections for donations, adopt a family or a child. This year my daughter helped to make fleece baby blankets for a local shelter.

    I'll definitely think of you and Mr. T when see the ringers this year!

  9. I feel better now.
    We missed our annual bellringing. Between my aching foot/ankle/knee and the ever changing schedules, I didn't get us signedup.
    Amigo will not let me forget it. He loves ringing bells.

  10. That is a wonderful tradition.

    It's not new, but each year my youngest daughter helps me make about 20 tins of cinnamon rolls--our friends and neighbor gift.

  11. You know what Clarence says, "Every time you hear a bell ring . . . "

    Sounds like you have your own little angel.

  12. oh brr that is cold work. good for you.

  13. What a great post! That's cool Mr. T went along with you. My boys love donating money to the kettles when we can. :)


Spill it, reader.