Now it’s official….’tis the season! The catalogs are arriving daily, the dried fruit infused door stops are being sold (who actually eats fruitcake?!) and my coffee shop latte is sipped from its annual red paper cup. Although the local lite station has been playing Christmas music since the 4th of July (ish), it wasn’t until the Salvation Army bell ringers appeared that I believed it. It’s the men and women standing by the red bucket, ringing the bell who help put me in the "Christmas mood." I admire the fact that most of the bell ringers are volunteers and I like to support their efforts. Each Christmas, the kids and I have some purposeful habits we practice when we encounter the bell ringers, and I love when the kids get involved in giving! Yes, it’s small scale giving, but you have to start somewhere! I desire that my children grow to be generous and thoughtful adults, and that starts with practicing generosity and thoughtfulness as a child.
Smile and say "hi" with eye contact!
After watching person after person hurry in to and out of stores, often on their cell phone and ignoring the bell ringers, we have purposed to slow down. The power of eye contact is amazing. (Try it sometime with a bell ringer, a bus boy, and the drive-thru window employee.) The kids have become great with stopping to say hello to each bell ringer we see, and we usually offer a small-talk sentence. We don’t engage in a get-to-know-you conversation, but sometimes a smile and friendly comment can really make someone’s day!
With so many people using credit and debit cards for everything, there is often an issue of not having change for the red buckets! It was too often that I realized I had this problem, so we now keep a little baggie of change in the minivan, and the kids grab a few coins on our way into the store. It seems like such a small effort, but it works and enables us to participate in giving.
The extra donation
I was out with then 10-year old Carter when we stopped at a local drug store, and he assured me that he already had some money for the Salvation Army bucket. As we approached the bell ringer (who was singing Christmas carols!), I saw Carter pull $5 out of his pocket. It was his allowance! I should be embarrassed to admit that my first reaction was to whisper to him, "Are you sure?" He was very happy with his choice to give away his allowance and I was proud of him. A week later, we were grocery shopping on a cold, windy, snowy day. The bell ringer outside was a slight woman who appeared to be a bit down on her luck. We greeted her as we walked in and made some small talk and a donation on the way out. Acting on a spur of the moment idea, we went back into the grocery store, heading for the Starbucks within. We bought a hot chocolate for the bell ringer, and it made me kinda sad to see her shock in response to the small kindness. That hot chocolate was the best $3 I spent all week!
The next time you’re out, try something new when you encounter a bell ringer! All it takes is a little consideration and thought. Never underestimate the smallest effort or friendly kindness.
Gotta run and change the radio station…I cannot handle that sad Christmas shoes song any longer!