Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Impressions while ringing bells for Salvation Army

I just thought I'd send this out without any editorializing at all. It is sort of a slice of the Christmas scene that we all see.

So many different kinds of people. So interesting to watch. So many who have bad legs and have trouble walking. I asked one man who had legs that seemed to splay out all over the place and had a cane if the cold weather made them feel worse, and he replies with a smile that he can’t even feel one of them which I took to mean he had a wooden leg. He forked out $5 to put in the kettle.

The bus stopped in front of the door. He left it running and the door open while he came in the store to use the bathroom. The desire to take the bus and take off was overpowering and when he came out I told him I almost took your bus and took off, he said cheerfully Well, here you go and I’ll ring the bell for you.

Mothers with new babies all covered up against the cold. Little children, many with their grandparents, toddlers. One grandfather wasn’t so nice. You could tell he wasn’t too happy taking care of his grandchild. The child did not want to let go of his hand when they went through the door and he was very irritated with him. The child wanted his grandma on one side and his granddad on the other.

The people who quickly walk by and put in a dime or a quarter are few. Most give a dollar or a lot of change. Some walk by so guiltily not giving. I figure they gave to another charity or maybe sent a big check to the Army and feel no bad vibes for them.

I never realized there are so many people with bad legs, crooked backs, and yet they are trying to shop for their loved ones. I even had a woman in a wheelchair with a beautiful seeing eye dog. It was a golden retriever. I admired the dog and asked if it was permissible to pet it knowing that sometimes you are not supposed to. She said the dog was working now and therefore I should not.

Big burly men with wild hair, sometimes long, would always stop and give some bucks and two very poorly dressed men each gave a dollar or two. One guy happened to come in when a whole bunch of ladies and such were coming and he stayed at the door and opened it and held it for all of them! Such a gentleman. Not many do that anymore these days.

The old ladies on pensions would put in a quarter or two. The young women would give a host of change out of their purses which amount to two or three dollars. So many surprised me by making such an effort. Their arms were filled with packages and they would either put them down and get the money out of their tight jeans or fish it out with great difficulty still holding on to their packages.

There was the little old lady from Denmark, WI who was Danish and stood and talked with me for a while, my being a fellow Scandihoovian. She said she was probably the last of the old Danish settlers in that town.

The people would sometimes come in droves and stand around waiting for their turn to put money in. The men would peel off a dollar. Some came prepared. A foreign lady and her husband, I think they must have been the Russian immigrants they have been talking about, made a great contribution and wished me a very Merry Christmas—so happy they were it seemed to me to make the contribution.

I wish I had had a pad and pencil as they came in so I could remember all of the different people who came in. I get such a kick out of the older men who treat me as if I were a young lady. It makes me feel warm all over.


RNSANE said...

It's nice that people do contribute to the Salvation Army, especially now during the recession when so many really have limited incomes. I'm not buying Christmas gifts myself this year - since I lost my job of 21 years in county budget cuts and retired, I am struggling to make ends meet.

June said...

Your impressions are so descriptive and warming. People watching often makes me see how fundamentally kind people are.
And good for you for ringing that bell!

Wanda said...

Bernie, I am so impressed that you were out there ringing that bell. I found your rememberances of it very heart warming. The warmth you felt with the older gentlemen made me smile! I admire you and your writing!
Have a joyful Christmas Bernie!

Wander to the Wayside said...

First, let me say that I am in awe that you are doing the Salvation Army kettle at your age (no offense intended) and in your weather! Were you outside or in the entrance?

Secondly, I usually try to have some dollar bills set aside in my purse in an easy to reach spot so that I can donate many times. Yes, I could put the whole thing (maybe ten dollars total) in one kettle, but then I would have to walk by all the other times and not have anything! When I was younger, I would usually walk by and look the other direction or in my purse or at my list when I didn't have any money, feeling guilty that I wasn't donating. But now I try to say something like 'sorry, I've already given' or 'sorry, but I'm really short of money myself right now' (knowing full well that I'll probably go in and buy something I really don't need with money that I could have donated instead), but always saying something and smiling, or in some way acknowledge the volunteers's existance.

Lastly, what is it with the bad legs and backs anyway? I made the same comment to my husband the other day after I'd been to Walmart! A lot of people were just having trouble with their legs because they were overweight, but there were so many that were so obviously in pain that it made me want to stop them and ask what the problem was. A lot of older people who obviously had arthritis. But what I especially noticed was the fatigue and stress in people's faces.

Great post, Bernie! Anytime you're in a position to be a people watcher (kettle volunteer, airport, school events, etc., you're for sure in a position to have a fascinating view of every slice of life.

The Weaver of Grass said...

A delight to read Bernie.

Bernie said...

Bernie what a wonderful thing you were father always encouraged us to donate to the Salvation Army, he was passionate about the Salvation Army and all the good they did to help those in need. I can never pass a kettle without donating and I always think of my dad.
I, too love to people watch, brings me such pleasure and I usually imagine a story of some kind as I watch.....great post my friend......:-) Hugs

Midlife Jobhunter said...

So glad you did this. Not only did it make a great post, but reminds me that I must do some giving this season also.

Midlife Jobhunter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Deb Shucka said...

What a lovely thing you're doing, and what terrific stories you're getting to meet. I felt like I was standing there with you. I love your stories.

MissKris said...

Bernie...I'm a first-time visitor, coming over from someone's blog?? Can't remember whose at the moment, haha! Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and will be coming back. I hope you'll stop by and get acquainted, too. Bless you for ringing that bell, girl!

MissKris said...

I'm so glad you came and left a comment! I had thought I'd bookmarked your page and hadn't so I was afraid I'd lost you forever, since I can't remember how I came across you in the first place, ha! Well, already I'm adding you to my "favorite coffee stops" so I don't lose you again!

Oz Girl said...

I am quite impressed that you are helping the Salvation Army and standing there ringing that bell! You go Bernie! :) Such a wonderful giving of yourself.

My husband and I decided not to give gifts this holiday season as times are so tight for us right now... I still do not have a permanent job and I moved here in July '08. I've only had two temporary gigs at the local hospital but nothing permanent has opened up YET. *sigh* I wish I could help others more right now, but we're stretched pretty thin ourselves this year. I really don't like being in this position at all!


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