Wednesday evening, I began serving as a Salvation Army bell ringer at the Towne Lake Kroger. Here are a few things I learned on my first day:
1) Layers make all the difference.
Wild Weather Wednesday. One customer described the fierce winds as a hurricane. When I woke at 7 a.m., the temp was 61. By the time I went to work at 3 p.m., the temp had dropped to 43. When I got off at 7 p.m., it was 41. But I stayed comfortable - I had on enough layers to clothe a few people - my green elf slippers were even hidden under my jeans and shoes.
2) Even the Scroogiest faces will crack a smile if you grin or wink at them.
Yes, I saw you frowning and chose to grin anyway. And it worked.
3) A loud bell attracts attention - a timid bell does not.
If I'm going to stand out in the cold four hours, you bet I want you to hear the bell. That's why we're there - so you'll see us and give generously to help your neighbors who are struggling.
4) Many folks who gave told me they'd been in desperate times before and thanked God they were no longer there.
Paying it forward, indeed.
5) People can be generous at times.
One lady gave some bills, loaded her groceries, then dug in her purse for some more change. One man sat in his car waiting on his buddy to shop. When the buddy returned and put money in the kettle, his friend got out of the truck and said he watched me ringing the bell so hard he just had to give. Bless you!
6) Anonymous cocoa sure hits the spot.
A Starbucks employee brought me a cup of hot chocolate halfway through my shift, saying it was a gift from someone who wished to remain anonymous. Delightful surprise. Thank you!
7) Listening to a bell ring for four hours does indeed cause a headache - but it goes away quickly when the bell stops.
The headache didn't start until about 2 hours in, but thankfully, it didn't last. [And taking aspirin just before my next shift prevented its return.]
8) One of the customers asked if I heard bells in my sleep. Since it was my first day, I wasn't able to answer that question. But now I can say, "No, I didn't hear bells in my sleep."
I didn't hear anything - even the dog barking in the middle of the night. Tim had to take her out.
9) Every penny counts. Pennies and nickels left by children, the dime left by a woman who carries no cash, the quarter handed through a car window, and all the bills stuffed in the kettle - it all adds up and will be used to help your neighbors.
I was really most surprised by the people who apologized for giving "so little," (their words) regardless of the amount they gave.
10) YOU make all the difference.
11) Well, I was going to try to make it a pretty list of 10, but then I thought of one more. I ENJOY saying, "Merry Christmas!" all day long!
I'll be at the Kroger Towne Lake every Monday through Saturday 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. until the 23rd. If you live in the area, I hope you'll stop by, say hello, and donate to this worthwhile cause. If you live elsewhere, be sure to greet your local bell ringers and give if you're able. Your donations are appreciated.