The Bell Ringer
by Scott Henderson
The Salvation Army apron looked like a lobster bib on my full-figured frame. But I was unsullied as I began my shift outside the local hardware store. Each year I looked forward to ringing the bell for their Red Kettle program, as I always took something truly magical away from the experience.
An old Chevy truck broke the quiet of the crisp morning, and sputtered its way into an available parking spot. A dad, mom, and a tot piled out of the cab and made their way toward me. The young boy was strung securely between his parents hands and was having a wonderful game of what my kids used to call ‘Up, Up & Away.’ He touched down only long enough to push off for another flight into the great and boundless beyond. As they reached the store entrance, the lad took note of me for the first time and began what I’m sure were many questions to his pop and mom about the fat man with the bell and the bib.
I went about my business of greeting, well wishing, and tending to the pot when the same family emerged from the store and said that they’d be back in a little while. I didn’t think much of it, but sure enough, about an hour later, the old Chevy truck pulled into the lot again. This time though, the boy marched ahead of his folks, as if on a mission. He walked right up to me and said, “My name is Miles, I’m three, and this is from MY piggy bank!” On his tippy toes he dropped a handful of pennies and a moist gummy bear into the slot. I was so moved by his act of altruism that I broke Salvation Army code 6-34B and let him ring the bell for awhile.
While Miles clanged away his folks told me they had explained to him what the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle program was all about, and that he had insisted upon helping the needy, too. We all got teary-eyed, hugged, and agreed that the boy had just learned the lessons of charity, benevolence, and compassion –words he would not know for many years, but concepts already well embraced. My little helper handed back the bell after a few minutes, gave me a high five, and returned to the familiar spot between his folks hands.
This time of year many of us get lost in a swirl of store circulars, curt shoppers, and forced sentimentalism. For me, and maybe you, those seventeen sticky pennies represent a fitting reminder of the important things about these holidays.(About the author: Scott Henderson is a humorist, political curmudgeon, anecdotal writer, and the undisputed inventor of the tilde! Additionally, he is a certified environmental ninja, ukulele theorist, and a plus size swimsuit model.)
© 2010 Scott Henderson and Southerner’s Journal