Saturday, December 21, 2013

Observations of a Red Kettle Ringer

(Please note the opinions are my own and not associated with any charity mentioned below)

For the fourth time, my son and I have taken a turn ringing the bell by the red kettle outside our local Walmart.  He wore his Christmas tree hat that dances and plays "Jingle Bell Rock" when you push its button.   He wanted to push the button for every donation, but I wasn't sure I could take that much holiday cheer so I suggested we save the show for young donors and gifts of $5 or more.  After the first 15 minutes I said he could play it for any donation -- traffic was that slow.  Maybe it had to do with our location,  instead of being at the entrance, we'd been placed two yards past the exit.  People had to intentionally come to our post.  Most chose to cross to and from the parking lot without looking our direction.  Four groups who did have to park in the hinterlands walked passed and mentioned that they'd hit us on the way out, when they had change.  Only one lady actually remembered her promise.

We don't live in a very affluent town.  In the past I've always assumed that people were just trying to stretch money to cover their own needs and was grateful for the change they did put in the kettle.  This year I'm beginning to get cynical  that folks have bought into the shopping hype  (we were ringing on Black Friday) and couldn't be bothered with thinking of the less fortunate.   I can only hope that the man with an Xbox One under each arm had mailed a check to the charity of his choice.  And the lady whose cart was over-stuffed like the Grinch's sleigh....well maybe some of those gifts were for Toys for Tots or the local Crisis Pregnancy Center's Giving Tree.  I seriously doubt it though.

There were some highlights.  Two older gentleman (both wearing veteran's caps) both made eye contact and they strode our direction from the parking lot before they ever went in the store.  Both thanked my son and I for our service (how ironic), and both put in large bills.  And the best donor of the evening was a girl of six.  She had picked her festive ensemble of a camo shirt and hot pink sequined skirt.  Her hair was decorated with colored  toothpicks instead of Chinese hair pins.    She skipped up and reached into her little purse THREE TIMES, pulling out handfuls of coins that she threw in the kettle.  Her mom shared that she'd saved the money up herself and wanted to share with kids that weren't as lucky as she was.  As she skipped away she shouted a hearty "Merry Christmas" over her shoulder.   She knew, as the Grinch learned, that Christmas doesn't come from a store!

So as we approach the final weekend of shopapalooza, I'd like to remind you how we can use this season to make a real difference in the world.

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